No. 6 Ole Miss handles Casey Mize, backs Brady Feigl’s ‘lights out’ outing to take series from No. 19 Auburn

Published 10:53 pm Friday, May 11, 2018

Scouts flocked to Oxford-University Stadium on Friday, filling the seats behind home plate and overflowing onto the concourse to watch Casey Mize.

But, for a night, it was Ole Miss’ pitcher who looked the part of a prospect in the running to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s MLB Draft.

Brady Feigl baffled No. 19 Auburn’s lineup to match the longest outing of his career while the sixth-ranked Rebels’ offense knocked around the nation’s top college pitcher en route to an 8-3 win that clinched a series victory. With Arkansas’ win over Texas A&M, Ole Miss (38-13, 15-11 SEC) stayed a half game back of the Razorbacks atop the Western Division standings and will go for the sweep Saturday at 4 p.m. (SEC Network+).

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Equipped with a four-pitch arsenal that has many believing Auburn’s ace could pitch for a Major League team before the end of the year, Mize came leading the SEC in strikeouts and opponents’ batting average at a miniscule .167 after fanning 15 in a complete game against Vanderbilt his last time out. He had issued just seven walks in 84 innings this season, had not allowed more than seven hits in an outing and hadn’t given up more than four earned runs, which came in his second start of the season against Bryant back on Feb. 23.

“The thing we think makes him so special is not only does he have a super fastball that’s 93-96, which is enough in itself, but then when you throw in an 88-mile-per-hour split-finger ball, a cutter, a slider and a guy that throws a ton of strikes, then you end up swinging at pitches out of the zone,” said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, who picked up his 800th career win. “You chase the splitter a lot, so the goal was you’ve got to get to the fastball.”

Ole Miss surpassed both of those totals by the fifth, using an aggressive approach that resulted in consistently hard contact when the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder uncharastically left pitches over the heart of the plate. The Rebels tagged Mize (9-3) for eight hits with four of those going for extra bases, including a two-run home run from Chase Cockrell as part of Ole Miss’ three-run second, a two-run shot from Tyler Keenan in the fourth and an RBI double from Thomas Dillard that extended the Rebels’ lead to 6-1 in the fifth.

Keenan also had a double as part of a three-hit night that raised his average to .326, combining with Dillard (3-for-4) for six of the Rebels’ 13 hits and seven RBIs. Cockrell and Cole Zabowski each finished with two hits.

“We knew he was going to be around the zone,” Keenan said. “He didn’t have many walks on the year, so we just tried to be aggressive and get to his stuff.”

It was more than enough support from Feigl (8-4), who rebounded from an eight-run outing in 3 ⅓ innings at South Carolina in his previous start to put together his longest outing since also logging eight innings against Furman in March of 2017. With better control of his slider than in recent starts, Ole Miss’ right-hander struck out five of the first six batters he faced and continued to efficiently carve up Auburn’s lineup for a career-high 12 strikeouts, scattering nine hits while walking just one.

“You know when there’s an arm on the other side of the field that’s that good, you know you’re going to have to throw a good game,” Feigl said. “What we preached and harped on was make sure you just play yourself in the game. It’s more about what I do than what he does.”

Auburn got on the board with Brett Wright’s solo homer in the fourth and didn’t score again until Josh Anthony’s RBI single in the eighth. The Tigers (35-16, 13-13) put two more baserunners on with one out in the frame, which drew a mound visit from Bianco.

But Feigl stayed in and got Wright swinging before inducing a lineout from Edouard Julien to get out of the inning at just 99 pitches. Back-to-back hits to start the ninth, including Brendan Venter’s leadoff homer, ended Feigl’s night, but not before he received a loud ovation from many of the 9,408 fans in attendance as he walked off the mound.

“Obviously (Mize) going to be the first pick in the draft and the best amateur pitcher in the country, you always talk about the approach offensively, but the other thing that nobody talks about is to beat him, you’ve got to have a great performance from your guy. And we got that tonight,” said Bianco, who let Greer Holston finish the game. “He was lights out.”