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OXFORD, Miss. – (Courtesy of Ole Miss Media Relations) Ole Miss (17-7, 2-0 SEC) battled back from an early deficit on Sunday, toppling rival Mississippi State (15-7, 0-2 SEC) 4-1 to clinch the series over the Bulldogs and set up a potential sweep Monday night in Oxford.
Ava Tillmann improved to 4-1 on the year after providing five strong innings in the circle, scattering five hits to surrender just a single run with three strikeouts. Anna Borgen picked up her first save of the year, tossing two scoreless innings in relief.
The Bulldogs jumped ahead right from the get go, loading the bases and scoring a run on a Carter Spexarth single. However, the Rebels avoided further damage, with Tillmann snaring a liner and tossing to third for an inning-ending double play.
The Rebels would go on to fill the bags themselves in the second inning, tying the game on Tate Whitley’s sacrifice fly, with Gillespie being ruled safe at the plate on an obstruction call.
After a scoreless third, Ole Miss took the lead for good in the fourth. With runners at the corners, Blaise Biringer came through with a sharp single just inside the left foul line, bringing home Mikayla Allee to push the Rebs in front. The very next pitch, Paige Smith roped a single to the wall in right-center, bringing Whitley and Biringer around to make it 4-1.
Following a leadoff single in the sixth, Borgen entered and shut down the budding MSU momentum with authority, striking out the side the quell the threat. The Bulldogs would bring the tying run to the plate in the seventh with the dangerous Fa Leilua at the dish but Gillepsie was able to squeeze a foul pop up behind the plate, clinching the win and the series for the Rebels.
• The Rebels open up SEC play 2-0 for the first time since 2012, when Ole Miss swept a two-game set with Arkansas.
• Sunday’s win was the 10th in a row for Ole Miss, its longest winning streak wince rattling off 16 in a row in 2017.
• The Rebels have won 19 straight games at the Ole Miss Softball Complex, last losing at home during the 2019 NCAA Oxford Regional.
• Ole Miss has allowed just seven runs at home in 2021, outscoring its opponents 47-7.
• Ava Tillmann has won each of her last four decisions in the circle. The senior has allowed two runs or fewer in each of her last eight appearances.
• Ole Miss has won six of the last seven meetings with Mississippi State and 12 of the last 16 matchups between the two rivals.
• With her two relief innings, Anna Borgen extended her school record scoreless innings streak to 33 games. Borgen currently leads the SEC with a 0.37 ERA.
• Going 2-for-4 at the plate, Blaise Biringer recorded her 12th multi-hit game of the season, seven more than any other Rebel.
• Paige Smith extended her hitting streak to nine games with her two-run single in the fourth, tying Jessica Pukand Aynslie Furbush for the team lead with 18 RBIs on the season.
With the series victory wrapped up, Ole Miss will go for the sweep on Monday night at the Ole Miss Softball Complex. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT, with the game airing live on the SEC Network.
(Feature image credit: Ole Miss Softball)
Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn’s love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship. Evelyn has covered Rebel sports for numerous outlets. In addition to working for The Rebel Walk, Evelyn is a sports writer for a newspaper in Texas.