Sean Johnson had waited a long time to make his first start for Ole Miss. After Tommy John surgery cost the 6’7 right hander from Durango Colorado to miss last season, Johnson was back on the mound Sunday for the Rebels, and though admittedly it was not his strongest outing, picked up a win against Florida International in his long-awaited first start.
“It wasn’t exactly what exactly what I wanted. My command wasn’t exactly there, but it was good to go out there and get the experience, and get the win most importantly,” Johnson said. “Usually I’m a fastball-command guy, and I wasn’t fully extending out there and getting my fastball into the zone.”
Johnson struggled a bit in the opening frame, allowing two runs, in part to a couple of wild pitches and a past ball, that put Ole Miss in a 2-0 hole.
“My arm felt good. It wasn’t an arm issue. It might have been some jitters, might have been something like that,” Johnson said. “I kept competing and kept battling, and my boys got some runs for me, and it felt good to get a win.”
Just like the first two games, Ole Miss was aggressive at the plate from the start. The Rebels tallied nine runs in the opening frame, highlighted by a three-run home run off of the bat of junior center fielder J.B. Woodman that sailed well over the right field fence.
“I got a fastball down the middle and put a good swing on it,” Woodman said. “Everybody was aggressive all weekend and the results showed.”
The results definitely showed. Ole Miss scored 32 runs on the weekend, and 13 in the first inning, en route to the sweep.
“You’ve got to be proud of them,” Bianco said of the offense. “A lot of confident guys and a lot of older guys in the line up that are feeling good at the plate.”
Johnson settled down after gaining a large cushion in the lengthy first inning, going five innings, allowing just two earned runs on seven hits and five strikeouts.
“I’m proud of the way he hung in there. I think he would admit it wasn’t a great day for him, especially location wise,” Bianco said. “I really thought his last two innings, even with the home run were his best two innings, which is good. I’m proud of the way he hung in there.”
Ole Miss would go on to add two more in the second inning and three more in the fifth to extend its lead to 14-4 after five complete. Nine different Rebels recorded hits on the day. Will Golsan, Tate Blackman and Woodman each had two hits. Woodman had three RBIs on the day, and freshman shortstop Ryan Olenek led with 4 RBIs.
“He made some tough plays today,” Bianco said of his Olenek. “He’s ready to play now. He’s a guy that I have no reservation of throwing anywhere, and he can play anywhere.”
Olenek started in place of Errol Robinson, who was suffering from a finger infection and was scratched from the lineup. Robinson’s streak of 94 consecutive games started was broken, but the infection did not seem serious according to Bianco.
Ole Miss added two more in the seventh inning on a pair of RBI groundouts from Olenek and Colby Bortles.
Brady Feigl, Brian Browning, Connor Green and Will Stokes each pitched an inning of relief after Johnson’s day ended, and combined to give up just one run that was unearned on three hits over that span.
With the 16-5 win Ole Miss completed a sweep of FIU to open the season 3-0. The Rebels return to action on Tuesday at Swayze Field against Arkansas State. First pitch is slated for 4 p.m.