Rebels battle hard but drop deciding third game at No. 8 LSU, 3-2
BATON ROUGE, La. — The visiting Rebels had not won a series at LSU since 1982 in the Jake Gibbs era, some 35 years ago. With a never-give-up spirit, Ole Miss arrived in Tiger Town as the visiting team, hoping to change its fortunes in a truly hostile environment. The Rebels (22-14, 7-8 SEC) were competitive in two of the three games but came up just short of breaking the streak in Baton Rouge.
Thursday Night: Ole Miss 2, LSU 15
Whether it was the LSU hitters who plated 15 runs on 15 hits, or the LSU pitchers who held Ole Miss bats scoreless for the first eight innings, the Tigers dominated the Rebels Thursday night and prevailed 15-2. LSU scored in its first seven at-bats—plating lone runs in the first four innings and putting the game out of reach with four runs in the fifth inning and six runs in the sixth, including a grand slam by LSU right fielder Greg Deichmann.
LSU starter Alex Lange held Ole Miss to three hits during the seven innings he pitched. Designated hitter Tim Rowe accounted for two of the Rebels’ five total hits. Meanwhile, the Tigers beat up on the Ole Miss pitching staff. Starter James McArthur lasted 4 ⅔ and gave up six earned runs on nine hits, with the relievers not faring much better.
Defensively, senior captain Colby Bortles turned in three outstanding plays at first base as he moved from his usual spot at third. Two of the outs he recorded were LSU pop fouls that he caught in spectacular fashion as he slid near the stands.
The scoring for Ole Miss came in the ninth, as Cole Zabowski recorded both the Rebels’ runs batted in on a two-out double that scored Michael Fitzsimmons and Bryan Seamster. In his first career SEC plate appearance, freshman Bryce Blaum pinch-hit a single to left field.
After the game, head coach Mike Bianco said it wasn’t a good night to have the worst performance of the year, but also noted, “you only get one win and one loss out of this.” He finished by adding, “We should forget this one as soon as possible.”
It was the first time this season the Rebels lost by more than four runs.
Friday Night: Ole Miss 4, LSU 1
Ole Miss second baseman Tate Blackman started the game off for the Rebels with a spectacular home run and later homered again in the sixth inning. Of his second long ball, Blackman said:
“He brought a fastball…and I turned as fast as I could and got my barrel out in front. That was probably everything I have in my bat. I didn’t miss that ball at all. It was probably one of my best I’ve since I’ve been here.”
Tate Blackman on his monster home run
Blackman, whose second blast measured 402 feet, credited the Rebels’ pitching Friday night, describing it as “tremendous.”
In the fourth inning, Ole Miss added home runs by co-captain Bortles and catcher Nick Fortes to extend the lead to 3-1. Bortles’ homer was the team-leading fifth of the year for the Oviedo (Florida) native, and the Rebels’ four home runs in the game were the most in a single game this season. Ole Miss later added two more hits, and shortstop Grae Kessinger swiped his first collegiate stolen base. The freshman from Oxford also contributed several excellent plays in the field, proving once again why he is a true asset to the Rebel infield.
Defensively, the play of the night was turned in by center fielder Ryan Olenek. LSU’s lead-off batter in the ninth, Zach Watson, powered a 2-1 pitch from Dallas Woolfolk to deep center field in Alex Box Stadium. Olenek ran down the ball, crashing into the wall and falling to the ground—while still managing to hold on to the ball. The catch was definitely a SportsCenter Top10-style grab, as even the Tigers in attendance appreciated the effort.
Starter David Parkinson gave up only one earned run on six hits in 6 ⅓ innings of work. Not only did the southpaw earn the victory, his fifth of the season, he was awarded the “red hard hat” at the end of the game. Afterwards, Parkinson credited his slider for his success.
Freshman Will Ethridge took the mound in the seventh with an LSU runner on second and held the Tigers off the scoreboard. He continued into the eighth and allowed no hits during his appearance. In commenting on his outing, Ethridge quipped: “I just try to fill up the zone, keep the ball low, get ground balls, and just try and get outs.”
He also added, “We had fire in our bodies and just wanted to beat the crap out of them.”
Closer Dallas Woolfolk entered the game and finished off the Tigers, going 1 ⅓ innings and allowing just a single hit. The sophomore recorded his seventh save. Not surprisingly, Coach Bianco felt his Rebels played better in Game 2, adding that starter Parkinson was “terrific.”
Bianco also complimented Woolfolk:
“I don’t know if there is anybody at the end of game better than he is. But he can do it with a variety of pitches, that’s what makes him special.”
Head coach Mike Bianco on pitcher Dallas Woolfolk
Saturday: Ole Miss 2, LSU 3
On Saturday, Ole Miss dropped a tight one to LSU, 3-2, in the deciding game of the series. Freshman Ryan Rolison was dealt the loss for the Rebels and drops to 4-2 on the year. After the game, however, Bianco commented he was “…proud of the way he pitched today as a freshman.”
The Rebel bullpen held LSU hitless and scoreless for the final 2 ⅔ innings with Stokes and Woolfolk coming on in relief.
Junior Tate Blackman homered for the third time in two days, and junior Will Golsan was 2 for 4 with singles in the first and eighth innings, as Ole Miss pounded out eight hits in Saturday’s game. However, the Rebels had trouble getting one when they needed it.
Ole Miss scored a run in the seventh inning to cut the LSU lead to one, and later had a runner at second base in both the eighth and ninth innings, but could not capitalize. The strikeout bug plagued the Rebels again Saturday with nine Ole Miss batters being retired via the strikeout.
Coach Bianco acknowledged there are no “moral victories,” but also said he was proud of the way his team played.
“This is tough; it will be a tough bus ride home, tough to accept. We played really well two days in a row, but unfortunately we only come away with one victory. We’re playing better baseball, and we’re playing probably the best baseball we’ve played all year. We need to continue to play like we’ve played this week.”
What’s Next for Ole Miss?
The Rebels look to bounce back Wednesday as they return to the friendly confines of Swayze Field for a mid-week game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The weekend SEC matchup will feature a second consecutive series against Tigers, as Missouri visits Oxford for games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday’s start is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.; Saturday’s first pitch is 4:00 p.m., and Sunday’s action begins at 1:30 p.m.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)