OXFORD, Miss. – No. 6 Ole Miss opened league play Friday night with an 8-6 loss to Tennessee, dropping the Rebels to 0-2 in conference play and 17-2 on the season.
The Rebels entered SEC play tied with Auburn (17-1) for the best record in the SEC. In comparison, the Vols entered Friday’s game with a 12-6 record, worst in the SEC East, and brought with them the league’s worst batting average and ERA.
However, none of that mattered when these teams met on the field.
“They outplayed us in all phases,” head coach Mike Bianco said.
“They hit better than we did, pitched better than we did and fielded better than we did.”
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco
In spite of the loss, Ryan Rolison, the Rebels’ ace, pitched a solid game, finishing with 11 Ks, five hits allowed, and only two earned runs.
“He’s a warrior up there,” Grae Kessinger said after the game.
“We have all the faith in the world in him.”
Grae Kessinger on Ryan Rolison
Ole Miss was able to jump out to an early 2-0 lead on Friday thanks to some nice hitting in the first. Kessinger started the game with a fly ball that went right through the center fielder’s hands, he would later go on to score. Will Golsan would bring another run home after a double with two outs.
The Rebel lead wouldn’t last, however, as Tennessee would answer quickly in the second with two runs that tied the game.
The top of the seventh proved to be a nightmare for Ole Miss as the Rebels fell behind 8-2. With the game tied and the bases loaded, Coach Bianco made the decision to pull Rolison. Tennessee would go on to capitalize with six runs in the inning.
“I felt as good in the seventh as I did coming out of the gates,” Rolison said. “I was ready to finish that. It was the best decision to go to the pen and that’s what coach thought.”
Just as Tennessee did earlier in the game, Ole Miss responded to the Volunteers’ scoring outburst with one of its own. The Rebels rallied to score four in the seventh, headlined by Ryan Olenek’s three-run bomb to make it 8-6.
“They believe in themselves,” Bianco said. “After the first we didn’t put a lot of good at-bats together until the seventh.”
Unfortunately for Ole Miss, the rally fell just short. The Rebels failed to score another run after the seventh and lost with a final score of 8-6. Although they were defeated, there are some good things to take away from this game; one of them being their ability to score four runs with two outs in the seventh which shows this team’s resiliency.
“One thing this team is really good at is staying confident,” Kessinger said.
“We have all the ability in the world to have those big innings. It’s huge for us to bounce back and show that we aren’t gonna go down easy.”
(Grae Kessinger – Video credit: Justin Dial, The Rebel Walk)