Ole Miss baseball bounced back from its disappointing series against Missouri with a 9-6 win against the Memphis Tigers on Tuesday night. An offensive outburst in the second inning and a steadying performance from the bullpen highlight the win at AutoZone Park.
Following a weekend that featured the Ole Miss offense falling into extended lulls at the plate, the Rebels used a 4-run second inning to open the scoring between the two teams. Ryan Olenek scored Thomas Dillard with a triple, followed up by Cole Zabowski and Tim Elko adding RBI’s in the inning, while Chase Cockrell scored as Elko occupied the Memphis infield in a rundown.
A largely disappointing start to the season for sophomore pitcher Jordan Fowler continued Tuesday. While he was able to strike out three Tigers in the first inning, he was unable to finish the second. A couple doubles in the inning, one with the bases loaded, allowed the four-run lead to evaporate quickly.
Fowler entered Tuesday’s game allowing 9 earned runs in his 15.2 innings pitched. After the finish to his freshman campaign saw him become one of Mike Bianco’s most reliable pitchers, Fowler was expected to make a big jump this season. He should have been battling for a spot in the weekend rotation, but he has not proved to pitch with the same effectiveness that saw him become an important part of the conference-winning squad of a year ago. An efficient outing could have been a boost to Fowler’s confidence when the team will need all its available pitchers to be locked in from here until the end of the season.
The Rebels regained the lead in the fourth inning when Tyler Keenan finished off a nine-pitch at-bat with a bases-loaded walk. Dillard extended the lead to three with a single up the middle. Dillard picked up two hits, two RBI’s, and two runs scored. Dillard’s slump at the plate lines up with the recent struggles for the team to score runs. When the top bat in the lineup is not producing, runs become hard to find.
The All-American was able to flash his defensive skills behind the plate when he fielded a bouncing ball in front of home plate and threw the runner out at first. Dillard has proven to be a more than capable fill-in for Cooper Johnson behind the plate in midweek games. The bullpen kept the Tiger offense relatively silent in the 7.1 innings in relief of Jordan Fowler. Other than a two-RBI triple surrendered in the eighth inning by Austin Miller, strong outings by Taylor Broadway and Tyler Myers rescued the rough start by Fowler. Myers and Broadway hurled 5.1 shutout innings.
Chase Cockrell put the game on ice when his two-out double in the ninth inning scored Olenek and Dillard. This was in response to Memphis cutting the lead to one in the eighth inning.
Parker Caracci entered the game for the save in the ninth inning. He brought on self-inflicted trouble by allowing the first two hitters to reach with singles. The battle-tested closer put out the fire with three consecutive outs to clinch the win for Ole Miss.
For the first time in a while, the offense stepped up and led the team to victory when the pitching staff struggled to limit the opposition from scoring. This team is at its most comfortable when they can put up a bunch of runs to give an inconsistent pitching staff some room to work with.
The Rebels go on the road this weekend to Fayetteville to face the Arkansas Razorbacks.