OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) – No. 8 Ole Miss defeated Murray State in dramatic fashion on Tuesday, in a game that featured a back-and-forth affair before the excitement escalated with a walk-off finale in the bottom of the ninth.
With the game knotted at six, Thomas Dillard ensured the victory by scoring from third on a wild pitch. The umpires went back and reviewed the photo finish and determined Dillard was safe as the Rebels secured a 7-6 victory.
With the win, the Rebels moved to 8-0 for the first time since 2008 and managed to complete the entire eight-game sweep of the homestand to lead off the year.
Dillard led off the ninth with a single, followed by a pair of walks to Cooper Johnson and Tyler Keenan, and scored on a 1-1 count to push the Rebels over the Racers, in a game that saw Murray State lead just an inning prior. The final innings featured much excitement, including an eighth inning that saw the lead swing multiple times, first in favor of the Racers and then back to a tied score.
The Rebels responded with a Ryan Olenek RBI single in the eighth, however, followed by Dillard’s walk-off dash from third to take back the lead and, ultimately, the victory.
Prior to the late-inning excitement, however, early innings were dominated by Murray State, who got off to an electric start with four runs in the first, including three before the first out. The Racers got on the board early with a three-run home run from the bat of Davis Sims, followed by an RBI double to give them their last of the inning.
Houston Roth, who earned his second Tuesday start in as many weeks, went five innings, striking out six on five hits and four runs, allowing just the four runs he gave up in the first.
The Rebels did not strike back until late in the fourth, when a lone single from Cole Zabowski scored Dillard from second to cut the Racer lead to three. The real offensive firepower though came in the fifth.
Down three, the Rebels plated four in the fifth, three of which came from the bat of Dillard. With the bases loaded and one down, Dillard sent a ball flying to right, clearing the bases and allowing all three runners on board at the time to be waved around and score. With the game tied, Chase Cockrell ensured that it would not stay that way with a single of his own to right, allowing Dillard, who had a team-high three runs, to score, and the Rebels to take their first lead of the game.
With the long inning from the Ole Miss bats, Roth was relieved, and taking his place was Austin Miller. Miller, making just his second appearance in an Ole Miss uniform, went one and a third, striking out a career-high three batters, while allowing a lone run on a swinging bunt from the Racers.
Will Ethridge, Jordan Fowler, and Parker Caracci also made appearances tonight, combining for the final three innings and six strikeouts, with a single run coming on a dropped third strike attributed to Fowler.
With the Racers up one, the Rebels struck back in the bottom of the eighth, tying the game up on the Olenek single that allowed Grae Kessinger to score, setting up a flawless top of the ninth from Caracci and the winning run from Dillard.
Dillard went go on to score the winning run with one out in the bottom half of the ninth to push the Rebels to 8-0 on the year, their best start in a decade.
Tuesday’s matchup with Murray State was the last in the eight-game homestand to open the year, and the Rebels will now jet off to face Long Beach State, a national seed last year, in a three-game series beginning Friday in California.
- The Rebels recorded their best start since 2008 by starting off 8-0.
- Today’s walk-off was the first of the year, and the first since April 8, 2017 when they did the same against Alabama.
- Houston Roth’s five complete innings today was the longest he has lasted coming off a start in his career.
- Thomas Dillard tied a career-high with three runs scored, as well as knocking in three RBI and going 3-for-4 on the day, with a double and two singles.
- Austin Miller recorded a new strikeout high, sitting down three in just an inning and a thirds work.
- The Rebels will face their first road test over the weekend, traveling to Long Beach State to take on the former national seed in their first road appearance of the year.
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