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Ole Miss slugs way to win against Auburn in series opener

Ole Miss senior leftfielder Jackson Ross, sophomore designated hitter Andrew Fischer and sophomore first baseman Will Furniss each hit home runs Friday night against Auburn, with the Rebels taking the opener of their three-game series 11-7 at Auburn’s Plainsman Park. The win snaps Ole Miss’ two-game losing streak.

Ross went 3 for 5 and finished a triple away from the cycle. Junior Riley Maddox started on the mound and surrendered one earned run, struck out three and walked two batters over five innings of work.

After Auburn cut a 5-1 Ole Miss lead down to one run in the fourth, the Rebels responded with a four-run fifth inning, all four runs coming with two outs.

“Just proud of the way Riley pitched tonight. I thought we made it difficult once again for him not being cleaner in the field, but he handled it, weathered the storm, made some pitches, got off the field,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “And then, also, to get him some runs I thought was key. We haven’t been fair to him on Friday nights and not scoring runs and getting a lead and being able to extend it. … Really good day for us, offensively.”

Ole Miss (24-21, 8-14) was without outfielder Ethan Lege, who left Wednesday’s game against Mississippi State after being hit in the hand with a pitch. He has a fractured thumb, Bianco said, and will be unavailable this weekend. The hope is that, once the swelling subsides, Lege might be able to swing with a split on, Bianco said.

Lege leads the Rebels with a .323 batting average and is second on the team with 13 home runs.

Ross took the first pitch he saw from Auburn (21-23, 3-19) starter Dylan Watts over the Tigers’ left-field wall in the first inning. The Tigers tied the game in the bottom of the second with an unearned run by way of a ground ball that got past sophomore third baseman Judd Utermark. Ross gave the Rebels the lead again in the third with an RBI-double, and Fischer followed that up in the next at-bat with a towering three-run shot to right field.

Auburn scored three runs in the fourth; two of those runs were unearned following an error from sophomore second baseman Luke Hill with two outs. The Tigers scored three unearned runs in the game.

The Rebels got runners to second and third with two outs in the fifth for Furniss, who took the first pitch he saw to right-center for a three-run home run. Utermark’s RBI-double capped off the four-run inning. The Rebels added one run in the seventh and another in the ninth.

Sophomore Brayden Jones, junior Gunnar Dennis, sophomore J.T. Quinn, senior Connor Spencer and sophomore Mason Morris pitched the final four innings of the game and gave up a combined three earned runs. Quinn entered the game in the eighth and struck out three-straight batters with runners on first and second to end the inning. Auburn loaded the bases in the ninth on Spencer, which brought Morris into the game with one out. Morris walked in a run but got the final two outs via strikeout.

“Quinn, it’s been a rough year for him. A kid that started off, had blister issues early on … and then pulls his oblique and then is out for about a month,” Bianco said. “And so, in this new role in the bullpen, you look at him this week, he pitched well. I thought he looked better on Wednesday against State than he did in the weekend … Tonight was, I thought, a huge part in the game, kind of going through the meat of their order … To get a couple punchouts there was huge.”

“ … (Morris) was sharp, and you’re thankful sometimes when you have a guy in the bullpen (with) that kind of stuff and can throw it in the strike zone.”

Ole Miss and Auburn continue their series Saturday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.