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Late surge propels Rebels in 5-4 walk-off win over Aggies in 11th inning

Late surge propels Rebels in 5-4 walk-off win over Aggies in 11th inning

Ole Miss earns an exciting come-from-behind win over A&M with a two-RBI walk-off from Thomas Dillard in the 11th inning.

OXFORD, Miss. — The No. 17 Rebels edged out No.6 Texas A&M, 5-4, in an extra-inning affair Thursday night at Swayze Field that did not end until the clock hit midnight.

Thomas Dillard was the hero of the game for Ole Miss, getting his second walk-off of the season–this time in the form of a two-RBI single up the middle.

Rebel ace Will Ethridge pitched a career high 8 innings and recorded 7 strikeouts while throwing 117 pitches on the night. 

The Aggies got on the board in the fourth inning courtesy of a couple of Ole Miss errors. A&M would score two more in the fifth via great two-out at bats from Cam Blake and Mikey Hoehner.

The Rebels struggled to get anything going all night until they broke into the score column in the seventh. Michael Fitzsimmons knocked a pinch-hit, one-out single into right field, and Carl Gindl then came on to pinch run for Fitz. 

Gindl advanced to second on a Ryan Olenek ground out and then moved to third on a wild pitch. Gindl came around to score on a throwing error by the catcher, Hoehner.

In the bottom of the eighth, Tyler Keenan drew a leadoff walk, and Dillard followed that with a single up the middle that chased A&M starting pitcher John Doxakis from the game at 115 pitches. Kasey Kalich came on in relief for Doxakis for 1 1/3 innings until he gave way to Joseph Menefee.

Cooper Johnson laid down a sac bunt, and Kalich committed a throwing error allowing Keenan to score. Kevin Graham came on to pinch hit and knocked a sac fly to score Dillard and tie the game at 3-3 in the eighth. 

Caracci-time

Parker Caracci took the mound in the ninth and retired the Aggies in order. The Rebels could not score in the bottom half, so the game headed to extra innings. Caracci again took care of the Aggies in order in the tenth with two strikeouts and a fly out. 

In the top of the eleventh inning, the Aggies’ Hoehner drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third on two ground outs. With two outs in the inning and two strikes on the batter, Caracci threw a wild pitch that allowed Hoehner to score. The Rebel closer quickly bounced back, however, striking out the batter on the next pitch.

No quit in the Rebs

Going into the bottom of the eleventh, the Rebels were down, 4-3—but there was no quit in Bianco’s bunch. 

“That’s one of the things this week we really worked on is body language when we’re down and just kind of fighting back when things don’t go our way,” Dillard said after the win. “We’re really talented and we can work on the fundamentals in practice, but that’s one thing that’s going to make a big difference for us,” he added. 

Even when we were down 3-0, it felt like we were going to win. We knew we had it in us. So we just went out there and kept fighting…and ended up scratching one out.

Thomas Dillard on the Rebels’ win

Ryan Olenek got things started for the Rebs in the final inning, smacking a one-out single to left field that was followed by a Grae Kessinger single up the middle. 

Keenan strolled to the plate and drew his third walk of the game, bringing up Dillard with the bases loaded and one-out. Dillard worked a 3-2 count before sending a walk-off, two-RBI single up the middle to win the game for the Rebels.

“I was just telling myself to get on top of the ball, and I happened to put one in play on 3-2,” Dillard said of his game-winning hit. 

On the mound

As for the Rebels’ pitching, Ethridge went a career-best 8.0 innings, throwing 117 pitches and notching seven strikeouts to just one walk and allowing only three runs on six hits. 

“Everything felt good,” Ethridge said after the game. “I felt great all day,” he said.  

“Going out there, we were fighting for 11 innings, and it’s good to come out and get a win and get into their bullpen and let them use some guys,” Ethridge added. 

Head coach Mike Bianco was proud of his starter. “He (Ethridge) showed he’s a true Friday night ace,” the Ole Miss skipper said. “They got some key hits, some hit and runs, some bases with runners in scoring position, but he hung in there and got us to the ninth.”

‘A different vibe…’

Bianco was pleased with what he saw from his team’s demeanor in the comeback win. 

I like the energy we had in the dugout. Even when we were down 3-0, you had a different vibe in the dugout.

Head coach Mike Bianco

With some close games the last few weekends that ended in losses, the importance of Thursday night’s win was not lost on Ethridge. 

We’ve had a few tough weekends, but we’re going to keep fighting. We’re down to the final stretch right now and we’ve got to sprint to the finish line to try and win some more ballgames.

Ole Miss pitcher Will Ethridge

Quick Hits:

  • Ole Miss improved to 28-15 overall and 11-8 in SEC play.
  • After trailing 3-0 most of the ballgame, the Rebels rallied to win their 13th come-from-behind win of the season, and the fourth in SEC play.
  • The Rebels were 0-8 with RISP before the Thomas Dillard walk off.
  • Will Ethridge turned in one of his best starts to date, going a career-long 8.0 IP with seven K’s, including three in the eighth inning at the 115 pitch mark.
  • Parker Caracci picked up his second win of the season.
  • Three of Caracci’s last five appearances have seen the Rebel closer eclipse 2.0 innings, including two outings of at least 3.0 IP
  • Grae Kessinger extended his streak to 31 straight games reaching base.
  • Head Coach Mike Bianco is now tied for third on the SEC’s all-time wins list with 738 victories since his tenure at Ole Miss began.
  • Former Ole Miss player Bryce Baum is now the starting second baseman for the Aggies.
  • Both starting pitchers turned in at least 7.0 IP and 110 pitches.
  • The longest extra-inning game in Swayze history is 13 innings vs. Auburn. This was the Austin Anderson pitch-out walk-off.

Game Two

Ole Miss returns to action Friday at 6:30 p.m. against the No. 6 Texas A&M for game two of the series.

Postgame Video

Left fielder Thomas Dillard (Video credit: Mark Bourne, The Rebel Walk)


Pitcher Will Ethridge (Video: Mark Bourne, The Rebel Walk)


Head coach Mike Bianco (Video: Mark Bourne, The Rebel Walk)

https://youtu.be/acnKNsVZBmw

Ross Montgomery
Ross Montgomery

Ross is a junior at the University of Mississippi and is majoring in Accounting and minoring in Finance. The Pontotoc, Mississippi native is a passionate New York Giants and Ole Miss sports fan who is excited about covering Rebel athletics.

About The Author

Ross Montgomery

Ross is a junior at the University of Mississippi and is majoring in Accounting and minoring in Finance. The Pontotoc, Mississippi native is a passionate New York Giants and Ole Miss sports fan who is excited about covering Rebel athletics.

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