No. 5 Ole Miss cruises past Arkansas Pine Bluff
There were a couple of dicey moments, but Ole Miss ultimately took care of business Wednesday.
Ole Miss got an early home run from Nick Fortes and added on for a 10-3 win over Arkansas Pine Bluff that improved the Rebels to 12-1 in the midweek. The Lions, who came in with an RPI of 274, cut a six-run lead in half in the middle innings, but four Ole Miss pitchers combined to keep UAPB from getting any closer before the fifth-ranked Rebels (35-11) blew it open late to squash any thoughts of an upset amid their contention for a national seed.
“It’s not hard to focus. Coach (Mike) B(ianco) preaches coming out for the midweek challenge and just being ready to play,” third baseman Tyler Keenan said. “If you’re out here and not focused, you shouldn’t be out here playing.”
Grae Kessinger led Ole Miss’ 11-hit attack, going 4-for-4 with a double and three runs scored. Fortes’ ninth homer of the season was a three-run shot in the first, Anthony Servideo drove in a pair with his first career home run in the second in his first start since April 10, and by the time Cole Zabowski singled home Kessinger later in the frame, the Rebels had a 6-0 lead.
Will Golsan added a two-run single in the ninth and has hit safely in 12 of his last 15 games. Ole Miss played without leading hitter Ryan Olenek (slight labral tear), who was held out as a precaution after returning to the lineup for last weekend’s series finale against LSU.
“After the game (Saturday), he was sore and stiff,” Bianco said. “We thought it was better today just not to risk anything, give him a few more days off and keep the rehab going. He just gets better and better every day.”
Freshman Jordan Fowler (5-0) went 4 1/3 innings for the win, allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits while striking out three before consecutive one-out hits in the fifth ended the left-hander’s day. Connor Green gave up RBI singles to the first two batters he faced but got a groundout and a strikeout to strand two more runners in scoring position.
UAPB (18-20) put two more on against Green in the sixth before Austin Miller induced a groundout to keep the Rebels’ three-run lead intact at the time. Miller, Dallas Woolfolk and Greer Holston combined for the final 3 1/3 innings of relief, limiting the Lions to a pair of singles during that span.
Making his first appearance since April 15, Woolfolk, who had allowed three runs and recorded just four outs in his four previous outings combined, retired UAPB in order in the eighth with a pair of strikeouts.
“He was impressive,” Bianco said of Woolfolk. “It was nice to see and certainly a piece that would be nice to have back in the bullpen. Looked good, looked confident and not just velocity but just stuff and command. He looked more like himself.”
Right-hander Houston Roth hasn’t thrown since April 10 while recovering from a pulled hamstring, but Bianco said Roth threw a bullpen Wednesday and will travel with the team to South Carolina for a series that starts Friday at 6 p.m. from Founders Park.
“Looked good and felt strong,” Bianco said.
A healthy Roth would deepen the Rebels’ bullpen. The former Oxford High standout has spent most of the season as the midweek starter but has allowed just one earned run with 11 strikeouts in eight innings of relief this season.
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