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Pitching, Defense Key Rebels To Win

Ole Miss struck early with five runs over the first four innings, which Chris Ellis and Wyatt Short made hold up in a 6-1 win over Mississippi State Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.

The leadoff man for Mississippi State reached base safely in five of the seven innings that Ellis started, but he limited the damage to one run in 6.2 innings, as he scattered eight hits with a walk, two hit batsmen and two strikeouts. It marked the seventh time in nine starts that he allowed no earned runs or one earned run this season.

"He was terrific," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He made pitches when he had to. He looked like he was so in command of the game. I was proud of the way he pitched, better than he's been in a while."

"It felt like every inning they got a leadoff guy on, whether it was beating out an infield single, or I walk a guy, or hit a guy, but it was good to have defense behind me that turned doubles plays and made the big play to get me out of the inning," Ellis said.

A trio of defensive plays in the middle innings highlighted the effort in the field that included just one error and saved at least one run and possibly more. 

"Chris had a great game today, throwing strikes and making it easy on the defense, getting ground balls and double-play balls to get out of innings," Errol Robinson said. "He kept us in the game throwing strikes and not too many walks today."

In the fourth, Preston Overbey knocked a ball down hit to a hole on the right side and then caught the lead runner in a run-down between third base and home for the last out of the inning. 

In the fifth, Robinson and Overbey combined on a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning, and then in the eighth, Braxton Lee started the inning defensively with an outfield assist, as he cut the ball off and threw out the runner at second.

"It was a big double play, not just by Errol but also a tough turn," said Bianco of the double play. "They run well. We're not holding the guy at first, so he gets a great jump, and then it's a tough turn for Preston because they're all over him. He makes a great turn and gets out of it." 

Mississippi State threatened again later in the eighth with runners at first and second and two outs. Short, who entered the game the seventh, was behind 3-0 to Wes Rea, and then he battled back to a 3-2 count before getting a lineout to Overbey to end the inning.

"We need that," said Bianco of the defense. "We defended really well up until a few weeks ago, so we need to get back to that."



Head coach Mike Bianco and the Ole Miss players said one of the team's goals is to win 20 games in the SEC. After losing two of three at South Carolina last weekend, Ole Miss is back to even in pursuit of that goal at 21-4 overall and 4-2 in SEC play after a weekend sweep of Missouri, capped by Sunday's 7-3 comeback win.

"We talked about it last week. After that tough Saturday, especially that first game, you felt you left one on the table to not get two out of three the first weekend, and we would have to sweep down the road," head coach Mike Bianco said. "We were hoping to sweep some weekend, but you would have to sweep a series that maybe you were not supposed to. 

"Maybe this was the game with four errors and a game where you looked at it from a distance and you said they're not supposed to win that game, but we hung in there. And that was the key. We kept the game close enough that we could win it. Maybe this was one of the games that we stole. As I said to the guys, that doesn't put you ahead necessarily at 4-2; it got you back to where you're supposed to be if you're winning weekends at 4-2. That was huge to get us back to where we should be."

Sunday starter, junior right-hander Sam Smith, recorded his fourth straight quality start, as he left the game with a 2-1 deficit in the seventh. He worked 6.0 innings and allowed three runs -- two earned -- on five hits with a walk and a strikeout.

"What Sam does, and why he has so much success in being a veteran, is he keeps it in control," Bianco said. "He doesn't let the inning blow up on him. He handles it. There were some innings there that they could have scored multiple runs, and he didn't let that happen just by bearing down and making some pitches. I'm certainly proud of his outing."

Sophomore left-hander Matt Denny and junior right-hander Hawtin Buchanan limited the damage to one run in the seventh, while freshman left-hander Wyatt Short stranded the bases loaded with a strikeout and a groundout in the eighth to keep Ole Miss within one, down 3-2, entering the bottom of the inning.

"With the bases loaded and one out, (Short) comes in and gets the strikeout and a ground ball to end the inning and keep the difference at one," Bianco said. "It makes it so much harder, especially playing a team at home where the visiting team has to get six outs." 

Junior outfielder Will Jamison led off the eighth with a single through the right side. Sophomore Cameron Dishon pinch ran for Jamison and advanced to second after freshman shortstop Errol Robinson laid down a sacrifice bunt.

Dishon came around to score the game-tying on an infield single to the shortstop from junior outfielder Auston Bousfield. After a hit by pitch, senior third baseman Austin Anderson delivered an RBI single to right to score Bousfield and take a 4-3 lead, and the Rebels went on to bat around and plate six runs in the inning.

"You put one of the faster guys on the field into the game, and so when we bunt him over, it was a really gutsy play by Cliff (Godwin) to send him," said Bianco of Dishon scoring from second on the infield single. "That's what a good coach does. He sees the shortstop go up the middle to make the play and sees it's going to be a tough play for him. A lot of times when you do that, it's an errant throw and it's going to be a bang-bang play, and the first baseman freezes like that guy did where you almost want to argue the call. Once that happened, we were able to have the big inning."


 

The calendar turned to March, but the walk-off wins continued for Ole Miss, as Will Allen hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning. He hit it to the deepest part of Swayze Field, but it carried over the 390' sign in center for the 5-4 win over UCF Saturday, the Rebels' fourth walk-off win in five days. 

"I knew I hit it good and I was on time for it," Allen said. "There have been a lot of well-hit balls that go dead center that didn't go out. It carried well. I saw the guy jump. I honestly didn't know until I saw the beer showers and everybody start cheering. I knew it was either going to be caught for an out or go out, so I was was watching it the whole time."

"The games haven't been our best games," head coach Mike Bianco said. "We kicked some balls, we had some poor at-bats, and maybe we didn't pitch our best, but when the games has been on the line deep in the game, when everything is magnified, we have played really well and played with a lot of confidence."

Allen, who leads the team with a .391 batting average and 17 RBI, has come up with a couple of those big plays. On Saturday, he went 2-for-4 with three RBI, which also included a 2-RBI double in the fifth as part of a four-run inning to give Ole Miss a 4-3 lead. His walk-off home run in the 10th was his second walk-off hit this week. Allen came up with a bases-loaded singles with two outs in the ninth to push Ole Miss to a 4-3 win over Louisiana-Monroe Wednesday.

"I'm definitely seeing the ball well," Allen said. "I'm trying to stick to my approach. I worked with Coach Godwin all offseason and continuing to see pitches up, get good pitches to hit and put your best swing on it. That's really our philosophy one through nine."

"He's swinging so well and swinging so confidently," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He had a big 3-0 double in the big four-inning for us. And then at the end, not a lot of balls go out to center field here. It was a well-struck ball."


Stellar pitching performances once again set the stage for the Ole Miss bats in the late innings. Christian Trent allowed four runs on six hits with no walks and a career-high seven strikeouts in 7.1 innings of work. Through three starts this season, Trent has allowed six runs on 12 hits with no walks and a team-leading 19 strikeouts. 

"He did what he's been doing this whole season and put us in a good position to win the ball game," said Allen of Trent. "He throws a three-pitch mix all over the strike zone. He kept them off balance. He settled in after the first. He did what he needed to do. He gave us a lot of solid innings, especially after all the pitchers we used last night."

And then it was Preston Tarkington and Wyatt Short out of the bullpen.

After getting two outs with the bases loaded in the ninth last night, Tarkington inherited a runner at third with one out in the eighth Saturday. He walked a batter, but then he got a fly ball to shallow right, not deep enough to score the runner, and a strikeout to end the inning. UCF got a leadoff single in the ninth, but Wyatt Short retired the next five batters in order, which included a double play to end the ninth and three strikeouts, to send the game to the bottom of the 10th tied at 4-4.

"The mantra of this team has been toughness since day one, since we got in the weight room with conditioning and then on the practice field," Allen said. "We knew we were going to be the hardest working team in the country. With that, you have confidence going into these games. When we're in tight situations like that, we have all the confidence in the world in each other, ourselves, our coaching staff to hang in there and do whatever we can to win ball games."


Down 4-3 to Louisiana-Monroe entering the top of the fifth inning, head coach Mike Bianco turned to his bullpen, and the trio of Matt Denny, Preston Tarkington and Wyatt Short answered the call and combined to put up five zeroes on the scoreboard to give Ole Miss a chance in the bottom of the ninth.

Ole Miss took advantage and plated two runs in the ninth to rally to defeat Louisiana-Monroe by a score of 5-4 Tuesday afternoon at Swayze Field. The Rebels tied the game at 4-4 on an RBI groundout from freshman second baseman Dalton Dulin and then completed the rally with a two-out, walk-off RBI single from junior outfielder Braxton Lee on a chopper hit at the shortstop. 

"To have these kind of wins and have the comebacks, you always talk about the offense, which is the obvious thing," head coach Mike Bianco said. "The less obvious and one of the most important ingredients is on the mound. You have to put up some zeroes. We put up a bunch of zeroes, and it started with Denny out of the bullpen. He looked terrific. Preston was really, really sharp. Wyatt Short, for his third outing of the year, looked super dominant."

"In the last inning, we came in and had a lot of energy, especially with Tarky. He threw great, and so did Wyatt Short," Denny said. "It really brought a lot of energy."

Denny came on in the fifth and allowed just one hit with no walks and two strikeouts in three innings of work, which tied his career high. Tarkington followed in the eighth and did not allow a hit with a strikeout in 1.1 innings of work. Short inherited a runner at second with one out in the ninth, but he got a pop-up to short and a swinging strikeout to get out of the inning.

"We have to pound the zone every time we get in there, no matter if we're up seven or down seven," Denny said. "It's one of the things that's our job to come in, especially out of the bullpen, to keep it close."


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