OXFORD, Miss. -- No. 16 Auburn's comeback bid fell short at No. 5 Ole Miss as the Tigers dropped the series opener, 5-4, Thursday night at Swayze Field.
Trailing 5-1 through six innings, Auburn (35-15, 13-12 SEC) used a three-run seventh to cut the Ole Miss (37-13, 14-11 SEC) lead to one, but that's as close as the Tigers would get.
Both starting pitchers factored into the decision. Auburn right-hander Davis Daniel (3-4, 5.96) suffered the loss while his counterpart, Ryan Rolison (7-4, 3.94), got the win and right-handed reliever Parker Caracci earned the save.
"We got down in the ballgame but didn't blink," head coach Butch Thompson said. "Our at-bats got better and better as the game went on. We got the four runs to draw within one, and Calvin Coker did a good job of keeping us there. Andrew Mitchell came in and got a big out with two runners on to give us a chance. It's the one more hit with a guy in scoring position. It's maybe catching one more ball. All of that came into play."
Daniel retired the first four batters he faced, including three on strikeouts, but allowed Ole Miss to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second on a one-out single followed by a two-run home run.
Auburn threatened in the top half of the third as the Tigers loaded the bases with one out after a single and a pair of walks. However, Rolison was able to get out of the frame unscathed with a strikeout and groundout, and the Rebels added a run with a two-out, solo home run in its next at-bat.
Trailing 4-0 in the top of the sixth, Auburn got on the scoreboard on a leadoff home run from Steven Williams, the ninth of his freshman season. It was also the seventh straight game in which Auburn has homered.
Daniel was relieved by Elliott Anderson after issuing a leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth, and Ole Miss made the free pass hurt as Dillard later scored on a RBI single. It was a bang-bang play at the plate, but the short hop from left wasn't corralled at the plate and the Rebels went up 5-1.
Center fielder Jay Estes started off the top of the seventh with a leadoff single but was erased on a failed hit-and-run attempt, which proved to be costly. After a walk, single and another walk loaded the base with one out, Luke Jarvis scampered home on a wild pitch before Williams hit a soft liner back up the middle. The throw from shortstop Grae Kessinger got away and allowed two runs to score to make it a 5-4 ballgame.
Venter narrowly missed a game-tying home run with one out in top of the eight, but the double off the top of the wall in left field extended his hitting streak to seven games. Caracci retired the next two batters to strand the tying run in scoring position.
Coker pitched 2.0 scoreless innings to keep the Tigers within striking distance, and Mitchell got a big strikeout with a pair of runners on base to end the eighth. However, Caracci closed the door in the ninth.
Estes turned in his fifth straight multi-hit game and is 12-for-19 during the span.
The Tigers and Rebels will square off in game two Friday at 6:30 p.m. CT. Auburn will send right-hander Casey Mize (9-2, 2.25) to the mound to oppose Ole Miss' right-hander Brady Feigl (7-4, 4.14).