Rebels hold off A&M for 40th victory
Published 6:00 am Sunday, May 22, 2016
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Fighting off a two and a half hour rain delay and a tough team in No. 2 Texas A&M, the No. 6 Ole Miss baseball team earned a hard-fought 3-2 victory in the regular season finale at Blue Bell Park. With the victory, the Rebels (40-16, 18-12 SEC) tied a school record for wins in a regular season with 40.
Ole Miss starter Chad Smith went 4.0 innings, allowing one run on three hits and four walks. With the majority of the bullpen available, the Rebels had the luxury of bringing in Will Stokes early in the game. The sophomore went 3.1 innings, a season-long outing for the reliever, and allowed just one run on three hits. Junior Wyatt Short nailed down the game without giving up a run in the final 1.2 innings. Short earned his 11th save of the year and 24th of his career.
Sophomore Tate Blackman led the Rebels at the plate and in the field. The second baseman went 2-for-4 with a double and also helped Ole Miss turn a pair of big double plays. J.B. Woodman scored each time he reached base for a team-high two runs. As a team, Ole Miss tallied seven hits on the evening.
J.B. Moss had three hits to lead the Aggies (41-13, 20-10 SEC) in the loss. The Rebels got all three runs on seven hits off starter Kyle Simonds (8-3). Mark Ecker tossed four innings of relief in a quality outing.
The Rebels struck first with a run in the top of the second. Woodman started the scoring frame with a single before stealing second to get into scoring position. An opposite-field base hit by Henri Lartigue placed Rebels on the corners, and Ryan Olenek singled up the middle to score Woodman. Texas A&M tried to respond in the bottom of the inning by getting the first two runners on base.However, Smith used a pair of ground balls to get three outs, including a smooth 6-4-3 double play to keep Ole Miss in front 1-0.
Ole Miss doubled its lead with another run in the fourth. After a single, Blackman was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice by Woodman, who advanced to second as the attempted double play ball sailed into the Rebels’ dugout. Woodman moved to third on a Lartigue groundout before scoring on a Colby Bortles infield single to shortstop. With the ball hit deep in the hole at short, Bortles showed some speed to leg out the single and give the Rebels a 2-0 cushion.
In the bottom of the fifth, Texas A&M played small ball to score its first run of the game. After a lead-off walk, Stokes entered the game to replace Smith. A sacrifice bunt followed by a base hit put runners on the corners with one out. Boomer White’s sac fly to center was deep enough to score Austin Homan from third, slicing the Ole Miss lead in half, 2-1.
The Rebels quickly increased their advantage back to two runs with a run in the sixth. Blackman smacked a double to the left-center gap to begin the inning and force Simonds out of the game. Back-to-back deep flies to center field allowed Blackman to advance on each flyout as Lartgiue’s sacrifice brought his teammate across the dish. In the bottom half, Stokes retired the side to maintain the Rebels’ 3-1 lead through six innings of play.
Thwarting the threats
Texas A&M scored in the seventh to make it a one-run game. Homan doubled with one out, and rolled home on a single by J.B. Moss. With the tying run at first, Stokes forced a groundout from White, the Aggies’ best hitter, to hold the game in Ole Miss’ favor 3-2.
The Aggies threatened to tie the game in the eighth, getting two runners on base. A single followed by a throwing error brought the tying run 90 feet from home. However, Short remained calm and caused a groundout to second, getting out of the jam with a one-run lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, Texas A&M loaded the bases with two outs and placing the go-ahead run on second. Once again, Short came through in the clutch with back-to-back outs to lock up the victory in the regular season finale.
Up next, the Rebels will trek to Hoover, Alabama for the SEC Tournament. As the No. 7 seed, Ole Miss will face No. 10 seed Georgia in the first round Tuesday. The single-elimination game is set to begin at 1 p.m. on SEC Network.