No. 24 Ole Miss defeats Florida International 7-4 for second-straight win
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco expected his young pitchers to be a little nervous in the opening weekend of the 2016 season, but with strong pitching from a freshman and two clutch bases-loaded hits, the Rebels notched a 7-4 victory over Florida International at Swayze Field Saturday afternoon.
After a solid opening day, No. 24 Ole Miss (2-0) looked to keep things rolling against FIU. And the Rebels did that early and at a quick pace to ensure the win over the Panthers.
FIU’s outfielder Jack Schaaf’s fly-out to left field off of Ole Miss junior LHP Wyatt Short’s fastball at the top of the ninth inning ended the game and started the celebration for the Rebels.
Pagnozzi takes control
Both teams were in a heated battle at the top of the fourth inning, with the score notched 3-3 apiece. But it was freshman RHP Andy Pagnozzi (1-0), replacing starting RHP Chad Smith midway through the game, who got things going for Ole Miss. He notched two strikeouts in 2.1 innings and picked up the win for the Rebels.
Pagnozzi gave up only one hit and retired seven of the eight batters he faced.
“We needed somebody that would throw the ball in the strike zone, and Andy was that guy today and he looked terrific,” Bianco said about the Fayetteville, Arkansas native. “He was able to locate his fast balls on both sides of the plate.”
Clutch-hitting seals the game for the Rebels
On the offensive side of the ball, the Rebels got heated and started to pull away from the Panthers. Ole Miss loaded up the bases with Errol Robinson, D.J. Miller and Kyle Watson. Watson singled to left field and allowed Tate Blackman to head home.
Will Golsan would then double to left centerfield, sending three-straight scores (Robinson, Watson, and Miller) home. The Rebels then led 7-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
At the top of the first inning, OF J.B. Woodman singled to right field, allowing Robinson to cross home base. Blackman’s first single went deep into left field, which allowed Colby Bortles and Woodman to cross the plate.
Ole Miss went up 3-0 on FIU, and Smith looked sharp early on, recording four strikeouts. But things went a little south for the Rebels when they allowed FIU (0-2) to tie the game 3-all at the top of the fourth. Eddie Silva nailed a single to center field that followed with Zach Files closing the gap to 3-2.
Nick Day’s double down the left field line placed Silva at home base. After those three-straight runs, Bianco decided to pull Smith and replace him with Pagnozzi.
“Chad struggled, it just looked like he had nerves and wasn’t himself today,” Bianco said. “Just really had no command. It seemed like if he didn’t walk them, he’s behind in the count trying to find something to throw in the strike zone and they got some hits.
“I mentioned that we are going to have some of that because there are so many first time pitchers running out, pitching in front of 10,000 and that’s not much you can to prepare for this. But you have to handle it. We got to grow up.”
Ole Miss will conclude its series against the Panthers Sunday afternoon (12:00 p.m. CT, SEC Network+).
(Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.