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No. 1 Rebs use dominant pitching and plenty of offense to pound Arkansas State, 12-1, in home opener

No. 1 Rebs use dominant pitching and plenty of offense to pound Arkansas State, 12-1, in home opener

OXFORD, Miss. — It was a day of firsts at Swayze Field Wednesday.

It was the first time Ole Miss had ever played a game as the top-ranked team in the nation; it was the first home game of the season; it was the first collegiate start for Rebels’ pitcher Drew McDaniel; it was John Rhys Plumlee’s first home run — on his first pitch of the season; and Ole Miss gave Arkansas State its first loss in its first game of the year, 12-1.

(Click here for our Live Blog of the game.)

The other number that was important is 20. As in Ole Miss has now won 20 consecutive games dating back to last season.

It is odd when a team scores 12 runs and yet the story of the game is its pitching. McDaniel struck out eight in 4 1/3 innings to earn his first win of the season. In the first game of his college career, Cody Adcock struck out the side in his only inning of work.

Tyler Myers, in his first appearance in two years after coming off Tommy John surgery, struck out the side in the ninth.

Wes Burton and Jackson Kimbrell fanned two apiece.

The Ole Miss pitching staff has now sent 16 different pitchers to the mound in four games. They have struck out 60 batters.

There was plenty of offense for the Rebels. Kevin Graham had three hits, scored three runs and drove in a pair. In his first start, playing second for the injured Peyton Chatagnier, T.J. McCants had two hits, one of them a double, while Justin Bench, Cael Baker and John Rhys Plumlee each drove in two runs. Baker’s and Plumlee’s RBIs came on home runs.

Ole Miss got something going with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. Graham singled up the middle and Tim Elko walked to give the Rebels a pair of baserunners. Then, Hayden Dunhurst sent a grounder that ASU shortstop Jake Gish could not handle, and it rolled into centerfield to score Graham to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead.

In the top of the second, left fielder Kevin Graham made a spectacular diving catch for the second out of the Red Wolves’ portion of the inning.

Baker opened the second for Ole Miss by drawing a walk, and two outs later Justin Bench was hit by a pitch and both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch. Jacob Gonzalez followed with a walk and the Rebels had the bases loaded with two outs, But the bases were left full when Graham flied to shallow right field.

The Rebels kept their 1-0 lead, but they left five runners on base through the first two innings. 

Ole Miss would relieve that issue in the third. 

Hayden Leatherwood delivered a two-out single and Baker followed with a line drive home run that carried over the left-field fence to put the Rebels ahead 3-0. Knox Loposer was hit by a pitch and then McCants lifted a pop fly behind second base that tipped off Jacob Hager’s glove to allow Loposer to score. 

McCants was thrown out trying to advance to third, but Ole Miss still had a 4-0 advantage.

Arkansas State did not roll over. McDaniel surrendered his first hit of the game when Liam Hicks dropped one over the left centerfield fence to close the gap to 4-1.

The sophomore rebounded by striking out the next three Red Wolves to end the inning.

Prior to the home run Arkansas had just one shot at a hit, but that was erased by a spectacular diving grab by Graham in left field in the second inning.

In the fourth, Gonzalez got into scoring position with one out when he hit a high hopper to Gish and the shortstop’s throw was wide of first to allow Gonzalez to advance to second. Graham followed by squirting a grounder into left field to plate Gonzalez, and Ole Miss led 5-1.

A-State’s defense continued to fail on the next play as Elko’s bouncer to third was mishandled and the Rebels had runners on first and second. Graham scored on a solid single by Dunhurst to increase the lead to 6-1, but that is all the Rebels could muster in the inning.

McDaniel got into his first jam of the day in the fifth inning, Sky-Lar Culver opened with a double into the right field corner and Drew Tipton walked to give ASU runners on first and second with no outs. Culver moved to third on a deep fly out to centerfield to give the Red Wolves runners at the corners.

That prompted head coach Mike Bianco to call for Kimbrell out of the bullpen.

Kimbrell immediately struck out Jared Toler and got Hager to ground out to Gonzalez to end the inning without a run scoring.

In the bottom half of the inning, Loposer reached on a one-out walk and McCants ripped a double – his first career hit — to put runners at second and third. Justin Bench then got in on the fun with a two-run single to put the Rebels ahead 8-1,

Bench moved to third on a Gonzalez single and Bench scored on a sacrifice fly by Graham to give the Rebels a 9-1 lead.

Ole Miss added three more in the eighth inning, highlighted by Plumlee’s first career home run to make the score 12-1.

The Rebels now look toward their first home weekend series as Central Florida comes to town Friday.

(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)

About The Author

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers. He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio. A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series. Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time. He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk. Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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