Memphis tops Ole Miss 2-1 in extra innings

Posted on Mar 21 2017 - 10:54pm by Brian Scott Rippee

Memphis sophomore Jonathan Bowlan stifled the Ole Miss offense on Tuesday night. The right-hander tossed eight innings of scoreless baseball before surrendering a run in the ninth to tarnish his gem and send the game into extra innings, but his teammates had his back, and the Tigers won on a Trent Turner RBI single in the 11th inning to beat the Rebels for a second time this year, this time by a score of 2-1.

Bowlan blew fastball after fastball by the Rebel bats, living in the mid-90s with his fastball and keeping hitters off balance with a hard slider and a good change-up. He kept them off of the scoreboard for the majority of the night. Bowlan yielded just four hits, and though Ole Miss squared up a couple of his pitches and sprinkled in a couple of base knocks, it couldn’t figure out the power right-hander. Tate Blackman got a two-out base hit in the sixth inning and stole second base, but the inning ended a pitch later and was the only time the Rebels pushed a man into scoring position until the ninth inning.

“I mean this as a compliment: That has got to be the best night that he has ever had,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said of Bowlan. “He was as good as we’ve seen throwing the ball in the mid-90s with a breaking ball and really just amazing. We didn’t expect that.”

It appeared for a while as if Bowlan would go the distance and get the win, but he came undone in the ninth as his pitch count rose above 110. He plunked Blackman to lead off the inning, and two batters later, Colby Bortles tied the game with a double down the left field line that scored Blackman, who ran through a stop sign from third base coach Matt Clement on his way home. Bortles was 2-4 and the only Rebel with multiple hits.

“He came out with his best stuff and pounded the zone a lot. His (velocity) was up.  His slider was sharp and change up kept us off balance,” Blackman said. “He did everything he needed to do to pitch a great game. Hats off to him.”

Bowlan’s opposition on the hill was senior righty Sean Johnson, who allowed a run on a pair of hits in four innings of work. Johnson threw well for the brief 48-pitch stint he was in there, but a leadoff double in the fourth inning came back to bite him as Memphis scored a run on a ground ball to third that Colby Bortles bobbled to give the Tigers a lead they would sustain for the majority of the game.

“I thought he pitched terrific for everything that he has been through,” Bianco said. “We needed that tonight.”

The Ole Miss bullpen kept it in the game and the lead at a single run. Jason Barber relieved Johnson for an inning, then Connor Green worked for 2.2 more of scoreless ball. Ryan Rolison pitched through the ninth before giving way to Dallas Woolfolk for the 10th after the Rebels tied the game. Andy Pagnozzi came in for the 11th and surrendered three base hits, the final one coming off of the bat of Turner as he laced a fastball up the middle to end the game.

It was the second game in a row the Rebels were in a fight requiring them to dig deep into their bullpen and their bench. Thirteen position players played in the game.

“You play enough of these games, guys get a taste of it,” Bianco said. “I think that is a good thing.”

Ole Miss came out on the wrong side of this one as the timely hit again eluded it.

“It just shows you how much depth we have,” Blackman said. “When we get the opportunity to score people from second, we’ve got to get that timely hit. That’s the name of the game, and they did that today.”