May 26—HOOVER, Ala. — The bridge to Broadway collapsed in the seventh, but that just meant Taylor Broadway needed to go a little longer.
The Ole Miss closer pitched the last 2 1/3 innings and tied the school record with his 13th save this season as No. 5 seed Ole Miss eliminated 12 seed Auburn 7-4 in the late game on opening day of the SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met Tuesday.
A crowd of 7,750 watched Broadway as he gave up a hit and a walk and struck out two. He took a ball off his foot on a comebacker as the Tigers (25-27) put the leadoff man on base in the ninth, but got a strikeout and ended the game with a 4-6-3 double play.
The Rebels (39-17) advance to the double-elimination part of the tournament and take on No. 4 seed Vanderbilt in Wednesday’s late game.
The Rebels got some breathing room with a two-run home run from Hayden Dunhurst in the seventh.
Ole Miss was comfortably ahead after six innings from starter Doug Nikhazy until Auburn posted back-to-back RBI hits against reliever Brandon Johnson to make it a 5-4 game.
Rebels coach Mike Bianco turned to Broadway for the last out of the seventh, before lefty swinger Dunhurst homered to the right field bullpen off Carson Skipper, Auburn’s left-handed reliever.
The Rebels had struggled to break through against Skipper who at one point retired 10 straight.
Tim Elko reached on a bloop single, and pinch-runner John Rhys Plumlee was on base to score ahead of Dunhurst.
Cade Sammons further supported Broadway as he covered a lot of ground to his left for a nifty on-the-run catch for the first out of the eighth.
“(Broadway) is really tough on hitters,” said Nikhazy, himself tough on hitters. “He’s one of those stoppers in the SEC that doesn’t get talked about enough. When he comes into the game the Rebels are going to win.”
Nikhazy on short rest scattered four hits and a walk and struck out seven.
Ole Miss had 12 hits, four of them from freshman shortstop Jacob Gonzalez.
The star reliever in Game 2 at Georgia, Johnson was missing spots early and issued a leadoff walk in the seventh.
After a ground out and a strikeout he was in a two-strike count against designated hitter Garrett Farquhar before giving up an RBI double.
That brought up Eric Bliss, who had homered off Nikhazy’s second pitch for a 1-0 Auburn lead in the first. Bliss then singled home Farquhar to get the Tigers a run back at 5-4.
Nikhazy ran into trouble in the fifth with a walk and an infield hit.
Then Farquhar hit a sharp ground ball past Justin Bench to make it 5-2.
That brought Bliss to the plate with runners on, but Nikhazy got him swinging at a fastball to strand two.
“Broadway did what Broadway does,” Bianco said. “We didn’t want to bring him in there in the seventh, especially in a dirty inning, but we had to with our backs against the wall. You lose, and you go home.”