The No. 4 Ole Miss Rebels (14-2) went into the weekend 5-1 against Big 10 opponents and were looking to show dominance against Purdue (8-7).
Jack Dougherty took the mound again at Swayze Field as the Friday night starter, retiring the first six batters for the Boilermakers in order.
Ole Miss took the plate, prepared to face the Purdue pitcher Khal Stephen. The Rebels put up four runs in each of the first two innings.
In the bottom of the second, Kemp Alderman blasted a three-run home run down the left field line that came off the bat at 118 mph.
Purdue sent out a new pitcher in the bottom of the third, CJ Backer, who allowed Ethan Groff to add two more stolen bases to his seven collected this season. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Alderman brought in Groff and totaled five RBIs on the day, his highest this season.
Dougherty got his 20th strikeout of the season in the fourth but gave up a three-run home run that put the Boilermakers on the board. The pitcher started to struggle in the sixth once he gave up two hits and hit a batter.
We would later find out Dougherty had the stomach bug, giving up six runs, one walk and six strikeouts in 5.2 innings pitched.
Brayden Jones came in to replace Dougherty and was immediately scrambling. A wild pitch scored a runner, then Jones hit a batter and gave up a walk. Finally, with a hit to Groff in center field, they escaped a bases-loaded situation.
TJ McCants showed off in the next two frames as he had a solo home run to right field and then made a diving catch in right field to steal a base hit from Boilermakers.
Purdue had cut the lead down to three runs twice, but after the bottom of the seventh, that was long gone. The Rebels scored five runs in the seventh with a two-run home run to right field from McCants and a double from Anthony Calarco that scored two.
The following two innings went scoreless, and the Rebels took the first game of the series 15-7.
McCants struck out his first three at-bats of the night, but he didn’t give up; coming back with two home runs and an incredible diving catch in the top of the seventh.
“That shows his maturity,” head coach Mike Bianco said after the game. “Sometimes you’re not good and you still come to play. He struck out three times and still got interviewed by you guys. That says a lot about him.”
Game 2 of the series was not a blowout like the first. Purdue came back with vengeance and made it very difficult for freshman pitcher Grayson Saunier.
In the first inning alone, Saunier walked three batters, and his pitch count increased quickly.
Ole Miss struck first in the first inning scratching across two against the Purdue pitcher, Jonathan Blackwell. Gonzalez got his 22nd hit in the first, which has him now leading the Rebels in hits this season.
Saunier was still struggling in the second as he gave up two free bases and a home run to give the Boilermakers the lead. He started to settle in the top of the third, retiring three in order.
Alderman continued to have a great weekend as he hit his second home run of the series which made it a 10-game hitting streak for the junior. The game was all tied up going into the fourth, where Saunier was now in a groove, sitting down the next three in order.
Peyton Chatagnier gave Ole Miss the lead with a home run to left field, making the score 5-4 going into the fifth inning. Jordan Vera took over for Saunier and made it a quick inning.
In the seventh, Sam Tookoian went three up, three down to give the Rebels a chance to make some breathing room, and that’s what McCants did. Hitting his third home run of the series over the right field wall, Ole Miss led by two.
Sophomore pitcher Mason Nichols entered the game and struck out the first batter. Nichols then gave up his first run allowed this season, a home run to right-center.
The next two frames went without any runs, but the bottom of the ninth was when Rebel fans were all on their feet. With two outs and Reagan Burford at third base, Gonzalez was up to bat.
That’s not what Purdue wanted. They intentionally walked Gonzalez, giving the Rebels first and third with Groff at the plate. Groff walked on four pitches, loading the bases.
Swayze became electric with Calvin Harris up to bat. He works a full count, and the crowd goes silent when he grounds out to second base. After last night’s game, no one expected this game to go into extras.
Nichols takes the mound again and shows how much the nerves don’t get to him. With a runner on third for the Boilermakers and a full count to the batter, Nichols got the man at the plate to fly out to center.
Alderman was the first to take the plate in extras and the last. With a solo shot to right field, Ole Miss takes the game 7-6.
“We haven’t played a lot of nine-inning games, so I think it was good for us today to have to play a close game and scratch at the end,” Alderman said after the game.
On what Rebel fans like to call “Energy Sunday”, Ole Miss was looking for their third non-conference sweep of the season.
The starting pitcher for the Rebels was the junior transfer from Indianapolis, Xavier Rivas. The pitcher got out of the first inning quickly with two strikeouts on only 12 pitches.
Rebel bats have been hot all weekend with a combined 23 hits in the first two games. The team scored most of their runs in the first two innings of all their games, but the first time at the plate put nothing on the board for the Rebels.
Purdue struckfirst for the first time this series, putting one up on the board and inflating Rivas’s pitch count.
Even with Purdue pitcher Kyle Iwinski proving to be a challenge for the Rebels, they tied the game with a line drive from Ethan Lege that scored Chatagnier.
Heading into the fourth inning, both teams have four hits each, but Ole Miss has the lead 2-1.
Coming back in the fourth, Rivas sat down the batters in order. Rivas picked up six strikeouts over 68 pitches, making it difficult for the Boilermakers.
Through the fifth both teams continue to strand runners in scoring position. Rebel bats have yet to pick up like they have in the past two days.
Ole Miss added another as McCants scored on a sac-fly by Lege, making Lege 1-for-2 on the day with two RBIs. Rebels led by two going into the seventh.
Rivas ended his day after six complete innings pitched, one walk, one hit and 99 pitches. Matt Parenteau took over for Ole Miss in the seventh.
With a walk and a run given up early by Parenteau, JT Quinn entered the game. Quinn quickly filled the bases but got out of the inning with a fly ball to center field.
Purdue got two on base due to a hit and walk given up by Quinn. Tookoian entered for the second time this weekend. He quickly loaded the bases but got out of the tough spot with a crucial full-count strikeout and a pop up to third to hang on to the lead.
Rebel bats began to heat up in the eighth, and Ole Miss started pulling away from Purdue. An RBI-single from McCants scored one, and a single through the left side by Lege scored two more. With three scoring in the frame, Ole Miss heads into the ninth leading 6-1.
The Boilermakers try to cut down the five-run deficit but are unsuccessful. The captain,Garrett Wood, made the last out of the series and Ole Miss beat Purdue 6-1.
This weekend has truly been the McCants and Alderman weekend. Each player hit three homeruns this weekend and were exceptional on the field. McCants had eight total home runs last year and already has six this season. Same story for Alderman; he had 11 total last season and already has eight this season.
The final game of the series was definitely a game of pitching and defense. Both teams’ bats were having a tough time getting the pivotal hits, stranding countless runners throughout the game. “Energy Sundays” are typically the high scoring days full of homeruns and exciting plays, but that’s not how Sunday went.
Even so, the Rebels pulled out the win Sunday at Swayze Field, completing the sweep of Purdue.
Ole Miss is now 14-2 on the season and 8-1 against Big 10 opponents.