Ole Miss baseball and Auburn are familiar foes with a common goal colliding head-to-head in the first round of the College World Series Saturday.
The Rebels (37-22) and Tigers (42-20) pulled off upsets against national seeds to make it to their first round matchup Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN2). Ole Miss won the Coral Gables Regional hosted by No. 6 national seed Miami and swept the Hattiesburg Super Regional against No. 11 Southern Miss. Auburn swept its regional at home and upset No. 3 Oregon State in Corvallis.
Auburn and Ole Miss played three times the first weekend of SEC play, with Ole Miss winning twice and outscoring the Tigers 33-27 in a heavy offensive weekend. Both teams have transformed and adjusted since that series, with Ole Miss getting hot at the end of the season and Auburn playing consistent enough to earn a postseason host bid.
IN THE PILE: Inside Ole Miss baseball's dogpile celebration: 'I'd rather be there than any other spot'
THE YOUNG ACE: Hunter Elliott used to cry in T-ball. Now he's taken Ole Miss baseball to College World Series
CH-CH-CH-CHANGES: Ole Miss baseball's pitching was dreadful. Now it's the strength of a College World Series team
Here are the Clarion Ledger's scouting report and prediction for Ole Miss versus Auburn.
Ole Miss offense vs. Auburn pitching
When Auburn has won this season, it hasn't exactly been because of dominant Friday pitching like it had in former aces Casey Mize and Tanner Burns. From the start of SEC play through the super regional, the Tigers are 7-5 in series openers and are allowing 6.8 runs per game.
By contrast, Ole Miss is 9-3 by virtue of scoring 5.9 runs per game.
Ole Miss' offense has been hot in the postseason, scoring 46 runs on 53 hits in five games. And the Rebels found success against Auburn in March, scoring 33 runs on 39 hits in three games.
Auburn's bullpen proved its mettle in the super regional, holding Oregon State to four runs across 17 innings (2.12 ERA). Ole Miss' strength this postseason has been bludgeoning starters and relievers in the middle innings, so Auburn's ability to hold the Rebels off their second and third times through the lineup will be crucial.
Advantage: Auburn has talent, but Ole Miss' experience gives the Rebels the edge.
Ole Miss pitching vs. Auburn offense
The way Ole Miss' pitchers have thrown recently, the Rebels have to have a lot of confidence. The Rebels are coming off back-to-back shutouts in the super regional and opponents are batting .172 since the start of regionals. Ole Miss is 8-2 when junior right-hander Dylan DeLucia starts and he's striking out 16.2 batters per nine innings in his two NCAA Tournament starts.
Auburn's offense is equally impressive. The Tigers are averaging 10.8 runs per game in the postseason and smacked eight extra-base hits in three games against Oregon State, one of the nation's best pitching teams. No offense tagged Ole Miss for more runs in a single game (19) or more hits in a series (38) than Auburn did.
Advantage: The combination of DeLucia and an Ole Miss bullpen that hasn't allowed an earned run since the regular season is great to have, but Auburn's offense is firing on all cylinders right now. Take the Tigers narrowly.
Prediction: Ole Miss wins a close one
Auburn's offense is hitting a lot better than Southern Miss' was last weekend. That should present more of a challenge and deflate the Rebels' pitching stats a little. But it'll be hard for Auburn to keep this Ole Miss offense down the way its pitching has performed in series openers all year.
This one goes back and forth, but Ole Miss pulls away late and finds itself in the winners bracket.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or email@example.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Ole Miss-Auburn baseball prediction in College World Series 2022