No. 4 Ole Miss rallies to salvage game at South Carolina

Published 5:05 pm Sunday, May 6, 2018

With his team trying to avoid disaster at South Carolina, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco stuck with the arm he’s trusted the most out of the bullpen this season.

Parker Caracci came through.

Caracci kept No. 4 Ole Miss close before closing out a 6-5 win over the Gamecocks in 10 innings Sunday in matching his longest outing of the season. It helped the Rebels avoid being swept for the first time since last May and more importantly kept Ole Miss (36-13, 13-11 SEC) in the thick of the SEC Western Division title race and a bid for a national seed with two league series remaining.

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Ole Miss will have three days off before starting a crucial home series Thursday against Auburn, which enters the week tied with the Rebels for second in the division standings after sweeping No. 23 Vanderbilt. Both teams are a game back of No. 5 Arkansas, which dropped its series at LSU.

Ole Miss’ starting pitching allowed 16 earned runs in the first two games, but James McArthur gave the Rebels a chance by yielding just three runs on five hits while striking out five and walking one in 4 2/3 innings. Will Ethridge gave up solo homers to Hunter Taylor and Carlos Cortes in the sixth that put South Carolina (28-19, 13-11) up 5-3 before Bianco went to his closer after a leadoff single in the seventh in an attempt to keep Ole Miss within striking distance.

Caracci, who’s worked multiple innings in six of his last eight weekend appearances, went the rest of the way, limiting the Gamecocks to a double and a single in his first three innings. Meanwhile, Ole Miss used a sacrifice fly from Cole Zabowski in the seventh and Chase Cockrell’s solo homer — his second of the day — in the eighth to draw even before Cockrell put the Rebels ahead with a sac fly in the top of the 10th.

Nick Fortes went 2-for-4 with a solo home run while Ryan Olenek was 3-for-4 with a double to extend his hitting streak to 23 games and push his average to .414.

Caracci allowed a pair of singles in Carolina’s final at-bat before the Gamecocks loaded the bases with two outs on Jacob Adams’ throwing error. Madison Stokes worked a full count against Caracci before Caracci got Stokes to swing through his 74th and final pitch — a season-high for the right-hander.