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Five home runs propel Rebels to 8-7 win over UCF in series opener

Five home runs propel Rebels to 8-7 win over UCF in series opener

ORLANDO, Fla. – It was not Swayze Field, but the Rebels made themselves at home in Orlando, topping UCF, 8-7, Friday. No. 2-ranked Ole Miss runs its record to 9-0.

(Click here for box score.)

UCF struck first, putting a run on the board in the first and following that with another in the second on three doubles by the Knights.

The Rebels were held scoreless the first four innings, but in the fifth, Ole Miss erupted. After singles by Kevin Graham and Justin Bench, T.J. McCants deposited a ball over the right field wall for a three-run homer and suddenly the Rebels led 3-2.

The Knights regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Nick Romana blasted a two-run homer to left to give UCF a 4-3 advantage. Later in the inning, Central Florida added two more runs to take a 6-3 lead.

Sixth-inning homers

The top of the sixth inning brought fireworks for the Rebels as they hit back-to-back-to-back home runs. Ole Miss second baseman Peyton Chatagnier got the ball rolling with a solo homer that cut UCF’s lead to 6-4.

Next, shortstop Jacob Gonzalez pulled Ole Miss even closer with a home run that closed the score to 6-5.

Could it happen for a third time in a row? Yes, it could and it did.

The Captain, Tim Elko, knotted the score with the third Rebel home run of the inning and the game was tied, 6-6.

“We can do it a lot of different ways,” Coach Bianco said of his team’s ability to produce runs.

We can walk, we can move runners, and certainly we can hit the homer. Tonight was a big night, obviously for Peyton. Huge homer by McCants. But then, Gonzo, the next pitch right after Chatagnier’s home run. And of course Elko did what he normally does.”

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco on his team’s offense

Rebels take the lead 

Ole Miss took the lead in the seventh. Reagan Burford coaxed a two-out walk and Chatagnier followed with a blast over the left field wall, his second straight home run in as many at-bats. The Rebels then led, 8-6.

The Knights pulled to within one run in the eighth on a bases-loaded walk. But Brandon Johnson rallied to get Ole Miss out of the jam. The senior pitcher ran back out for the ninth and closed it out in grand style, striking out the side, all swinging.

After the game, Coach Bianco praised his closer.

Obviously he’s our best guy, at least at the end of the game. You know, he wanted the ball after he walked a run in. I wasn’t sure if i’d leave him out there, but I could tell by his body language, he was confident and he wanted the ball. You want your best guy to have the ball at the end when you have the lead. He gets a big punch out of Romana, and then comes out and strikes out the side, strikes out the last four hitters.” 

Coach Bianco on closer Brandon Johnson

At the plate

Ole Miss finished the night with eight runs on 10 hits and left four on base.

Chatagnier hit two home runs in the game and tallied three RBI. Gonazlez and McCants each went 2-for-4, with McCants tallying three RBI and Gonzalez one. Elko finished with one home run and one RBI.

UCF notched seven runs on eight hits and stranded eight runners on the night.

On the mound

Riley Maddox earned his first win of the season in relief. His final line includes 1.1 innings pitched, two hits allowed, zero runs, and one walk. Johnson earned the save and his final line is 3.1 innings pitched, no hits, one run, four base on balls, and five strikeouts. Friday-night starter Derek Diamond struck out seven batters in 4.2 innings.

Next Up:

Ole Miss and UCF face off again at 3:00 p.m. Saturday for game two of the series.

(Feature image credit: Ole Miss Baseball)

Steve Barnes
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.

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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