Furbush and Sparks lift Ole Miss to victory over UT Martin

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023

A solo home run from Aynslie Furbush and a career-high 10 strikeout night in the circle from freshman Grace Sparks fueled Ole Miss softball to a 1-0 midweek victory over UT Martin Tuesday night at the Ole Miss Softball Complex.

The Rebels’ (22-16, 2-7 SEC) pitching staff was dominant, tossing its eighth shutout of the season and sixth at home this year. Sparks was electric in the circle, going 6.0 innings pitched with a career-high 10 strikeouts while allowing only three hits. Furbush provided the lone run of the game with a solo shot off the bat in the third.

Sparks was dealing early, breezing through the UT Martin lineup for the first time through. She worked a pair of three up three down innings to start the game and worked around a two-out walk in the third. Through three complete innings of work, the Crosby, Texas, native struck out seven of her 10 batters faced, quickly surpassing her career-high in strikeouts.

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Scoreless heading into the bottom of the third, Furbush stepped to the plate looking to break the deadlock. With the wind blowing in, she crushed her third home run of the season 251 feet to left field, giving Ole Miss a 1-0 lead. The Rebels had a chance to extend the margin after Tate Whitley notched her second hit of the night and advanced to third on a throwing error, but a flyout ended the inning.

UT Martin recorded its first hit of the night to lead off the fourth and looked to tie the game back up. The Rebels remained strong, handling two groundouts to Savana Sikes and the eighth punchout of the night for Sparks. She added two more in the top half of the fifth to bring her total to 10, a career best.

Looking to build on its lead, Ole Miss loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth with two outs, but once again, the rally came up just short.

Back to work in the top of the sixth, UT Martin once again challenged the freshman in the circle. The Skyhawks led off the inning with a double and advanced the tying run to third with a sacrifice bunt. Ole Miss’ defense locked in to secure the next two outs via groundouts to escape unscathed.

Needing just three more outs, Sparks went back to work. She ran into trouble after allowing a leadoff single and walking the next batter, forcing the Rebels to turn to Brooke Vestal. Vestal retired the next two batters, but a groundout moved both runners into scoring position. With the tying run 60 feet away, Ole Miss brought in Makenna Kliethermes for the final batter. She needed just five pitches to strike out the last Skyhawk batter, pick up her third save of the season and secure the victory.

The Rebels now turn their heads to SEC play with No. 15 Kentucky headed to Oxford for a three-game series April 7-9.