Hoover, Al~ Ole Miss made a statement in more ways than one on Wednesday in its 10-4 win over South Carolina (42-14). It had not played its best baseball against the best teams this season, and had struggled to hit elite pitching. It erased that stigma with its performance against Clarke Schmidt (9-3), and jumped on the sophomore right hander out of the gates.
“We really challenged the guys about midway through the year that, you know, we’re having this terrific year, but you have to beat the big boys,” Ole Miss (42-16) head coach Mike Bianco said. “I’m proud of the way we played against a really good team.”
Schmidt beat the Rebels the first time he faced them in Oxford earlier this year, but the middle of the Ole Miss lineup fared much better the second time around.
“We had some success against him last time we faced him,” Lartigue said. “It was all about timing today. We got hits with runners on. Last time we had all singles, and we weren’t able to push a run across.”
“He didn’t have his normal stuff or his normal command, and we certainly didn’t help him out any behind him,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said.
The Gamecocks made five errors in the game.
It was a proverbial first punch that this team had not yet issued when facing the SEC’s top pitchers over the course of the year, and it was initially sparked by Tate Blackman, who reached on a two-out single. J.B. Woodman followed him with a two-out double down the right field line, and he scored when an errant throw to the plate went into the Ole Miss dugout, giving it a 2-0 lead. Woodman was 2-2 on the day, and scored four times and drew three walks.
“I’m seeing the ball well,” Woodman said. “My swing has been real short. I think I’ve been really good with two strikes. I’ve gotten two strikes on me, and really battled and put some good swings on the ball.”
David Parkinson headed to the mound with an early cushion, and took full advantage. The sophomore left-hander went 5.2 innings and allowed two runs on five hits in what was probably his best outing of the year considering the lineup he was facing.
“I felt pretty good,” Parkinson said. “I decided to come out and really just attack the strike zone like I did out of the bullpen. That’s one of the things I kind of strayed away from when I became a starter. I have talked to coach about it, and I threw my own pitches. He told me to pick your own spots and see what happens.”
Parkinson tied a career high in strikeouts with six, and picked up his fifth win of the season. He got more run support after the first frame too, and a lot of it.
“I think I threw it better than I was as the game progressed,” Parkinson said. “Later in the game I felt strong.”
Henri Lartigue laced a two-run single up the middle, and Woodman scored from first after the center fielder bobbled the ball. Lartigue was 4-5 at the plate with 4 RBIs. The middle of the Ole Miss order went a combined 10-16 with seven RBIs on the day. The Rebels led 5-0 after the frame.
“You also have to credit Ole Miss. The middle of the lineup was very locked in,” Holbrook said. “They did a lot of damage.”
South Carolina got two back in the third inning, but Colby Bortles erased that in the fifth with a two-run double to the gap in left-center field that made it 7-2. Andy Pagnozzi relieved Parkinson in the sixth inning.
The Gamecocks threatened in the seventh with two runs, and chased Pagnozzi for Will Stokes, who limited the damage and preserved a three-run lead.
The knockout blow came in the eighth when Lartigue launched a three-run home run over the wall in right that gave Ole Miss a 10-4 cushion, much more than it would need.
Stokes’ scoreless ninth registered his seventh save of the year, and Ole Miss’ second win in Hoover in as many days, putting the Rebels in the winner’s bracket. They play Vanderbilt tomorrow in a game that is tentatively scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
“We know that they pitch it really well, but nothing changes for us,” Lartigue said of the Commodores. “We play the game. That is what we have been doing so far this week, and hopefully it pays off tomorrow.”