Rebel nation rejoice. The Rebel bats are [tentatively] alive. With a combined run total of 20 and a hit total of 27, Ole Miss swept the Alabama Crimson Tide over the weekend to earn their first conference series since the Vanderbilt series. For too long, Ole Miss has gone on providing minimal run support for a superb pitching staff, but this weekend, the offense did their job.
After James McArthur gave up a run in the first inning, he settled down and didn’t look back for the remainder of the game. The right-handed sophomore picked up his second win of the year by going 7 innings, striking out seven batters and allowing just the one run.
For the first three innings, it looked to be another tough day for Ole Miss at the plate, but a four-run 4th inning flipped the script. The Rebels got on the board thanks to a base hit in the gap from Colby Bortles, scoring Will Golsan from first. Ryan Olenek drove in Bortles, and Thomas Dillard drove in Bortles. This is the type of timely hitting that has been missing, and to see teammates hitting each other home was a sight for sore eyes.
The four-run inning put the Rebels in the driver’s seat as McArthur continued to cruise. The first beer shower of the weekend was caused by Nick Fortes’ first home run of his career. Tim Rowe stepped to the plate and followed suit, bringing the Rebels lead to 6-1. Rowe’s solid day continued in the 8th with an RBI double. With no save opportunity available, Mike Bianco left Dallas Woolfolk in the bullpen and brought in Will Ethridge in relief for the final two innings. Although he allowed a run in the 9th, it wasn’t enough to make the Rebels sweat and they walked away with a 7-2 victory in game one of the series.
Following Friday’s impressive showing, the Rebels took a few innings to get going, but they were able to hang around and hit their way back into Saturday’s game. Ole Miss managed to come out on top, but didn’t look great doing it as they committed four errors throughout the contest, including one by SS Grae Kessinger who leads the team with 5 on the season.
The Tide built a 3-0 lead through three-and-a-half innings, thanks in part to the Rebels’ poor play in the field. Ole Miss picked up their first run of the game in the bottom of the 4th inning with a Thomas Dillard grounder that managed to score Tim Rowe from third. The Tide picked up a run in the 6th widening their lead to 4-1, but another double from Rowe kick-started a comeback effort for Ole Miss. With two runners on, back-to-back sac-flies from Cole Zabowski, and Kessinger tied the game at 4-4.
A pitcher’s duel followed through the 7th and 8th with neither team able to break the tie. Brady Feigl, Will Stokes and Woolfolk combined to shut down the Crimson Tide’s offense after starter David Parkinson was pulled after 5.1 innings. Parkinson allowed 2 earned runs, with the other 2 runs being scored as unearned.
The Tide went scoreless in the 9th, and it seemed likely that the teams were headed for extra innings until Tate Blackman stepped to the plate. With a 1-1 count, Blackman launched a no-doubter to left field and the Rebels had a walk-off 5-4 win with a chance to complete the sweep on Sunday.
While the first two games of the series saw the Rebels strike in the later innings, on Sunday they wasted no time jumping out to a lead. With a run already on the board, Rowe’s weekend stat line continued to grow as he knocked Will Golsan in with an RBI double. Ryan Rollison took the mound with a lead and the freshman pitched with the confidence of a veteran.
Ole Miss’ bats took a few innings off, but with Rollison dealing, it didn’t make much of a difference. The Tide managed to plate a run in the 3rd, but that was all they could muster until it was too late. Rollison pitched 5.2 innings while striking out seven batters and allowed just one run. The Rebels took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 7th inning, but with two outs, that’s when Ole Miss put their foot down.
Blackman followed his walk-off from Saturday with a 3-4 performance and he got the rally started with a base hit, which was followed by a Will Golsan home run. A base hit by Bortles kept the inning alive and was eventually brought home on an intentional walk gone wrong by Olenek.
Alabama got one run back in the top of the frame, but the Rebels two-out fortune continued in the 8th with the same cast of characters. Blackman and Golsan each doubled while stretching the lead to 8-2. Woolfolk pitched the 8th and 9th to close out the weekend sweep for Ole Miss.
This has been the performance we’ve been waiting to see from Ole Miss since the Vanderbilt series. While Alabama isn’t one of the top teams in the SEC, it seemed at times in the past few weeks that the Rebels worst enemy was themselves. They were able to do what many knew they were capable of, and this series has a chance to be a turning point for the young ball club. The errors need to be kept to a minimum in the field, but another weekend of strong pitching performances keeps the pressure off the offense. If the bats can continue to come alive and return the favor to the pitchers, this team can go far. Now sitting at 20-12 (6-6 in the SEC) Ole Miss is still capable of emerging as a tough out in the conference. A trip to Hattiesburg awaits as the Rebels will take on Southern Miss Tuesday. The Golden Eagles will be out of revenge after their 6-5 loss to Ole Miss on April 4. After the mid-week game, Ole Miss takes a trip down to the Big Easy to face the top-10 LSU Tigers.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.