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No. 4 Ole Miss sweeps Auburn, sits alone atop SEC West

That’s more like it.

Josh McCoy-Ole Miss Athletics

Ole Miss opened its SEC slate in dominating fashion this weekend, picking up a series sweep over the visiting Auburn Tigers. This was the first opening weekend sweep of an SEC opponent since 2004 for the Rebels.

Auburn hasn’t won a baseball game in Oxford since 2012 (almost a decade ago!). That’s a lot of sweeps for the good guys. Can we forget the 13-1 loss to La Tech now? No? OK just checking fwiw.

Saturday’s game against the Tigers was a 6-5 final after the Rebs opened up a 6-2 lead early in the game. Drew McDaniel was good on the mound, and the bullpen struggled a bit, but Taylor Broadway came in and slammed the door shut.

Sunday’s game was a rollercoaster. Ole Miss was up 14-0 before giving up nine runs in the eighth which it then answered with five of its own in the bottom half. Then, Auburn pushed across two more in the ninth before the Rebels closed it out with a 19-11 win.

There’s plenty to take away from a series like this. For starters, it was good to see the bats heat back up after scoring a combined two runs on Tuesday and Friday this week. Sure, one of those games resulted in a win, but still, we prefer Ole Miss scoring a ton of runs compared to the inverse.

There’s also the fact that Drew McDaniel and Derek Diamond pitched very well on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Doug Nikhazy will probably be back next week in the Saturday slot, but having McDaniel available as a midweek starter and out of the pen can only help.

He’s been solid in his two weekend starts, and a tip of the hat is in order. Diamond’s earned run average was over five entering Sunday’s game, but his performance against Auburn was a great step in the right direction as far as the rest of the season is concerned.

Also, Calvin Harris and T.J. McCants should stay in the lineup. Both Harris and McCants had their first collegiate home runs over the weekend, and they never seem to have a bad at-bat when they’re at the plate, even if it results in an out. The bottom of the lineup is never going to be as potent as the top half, but it’s good to have some capable bats towards the bottom of your lineup card that can grind out at-bats and make a pitcher work. It also helps that they’re just good overall hitters with huge potential as they mature as players.

Finally, looking at the big picture, sweeping this series is huge. Ole Miss has a gauntlet of a schedule coming up next month, and sweeping Auburn is step one of two towards being in a good position when that part of the schedule hits. Winning next weekend’s series in Tuscaloosa (either two-of-three or another sweep) is part No. 2.

If you’re staring five or six SEC wins in the face when you travel to Gainesville, you’re in a really good place record-wise and are set up well for the rest of the season.

It’s just the first series of conference play. There are a lot of ups and downs sure to come in the months ahead, but it’s as good a start as you could hope for. It was good to see this team respond after a disappointing couple of games in the last week or so. Now, it’s just time to keep the momentum going.