OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) – Behind a strong performance at the plate Tuesday from Nick Fortes and Grae Kessinger, the No. 9 Ole Miss Rebels downed Memphis 8-6.
Fortes and Kessinger combined for seven of the team’s 13 hits, the former knocking in the team’s first six runs of the day on a pair of home runs that put the Rebels up by six in the third inning, while Kessinger etched a new career high in hits with four.
Houston Roth garnered his first career start as a Rebel, and his four innings of solid work gave the Rebels the momentum they needed to put some runs on the board. The sophomore went four complete while striking out six and gave up just two runs in his final inning of work before giving way to newcomer Austin Miller.
Miller, making his first appearance in a Rebel jersey, went two complete and recorded his first strikeout as a Rebel. Following Miller, Greer Holston and Will Stokes were called upon, each going an inning, but it took the arm of Dallas Woolfolk to close out the game. Woolfolk fended off a two-run ninth from the Tigers to earn his second save of the year.
The story for the Rebels Tuesday, however, was on offense. Following Kessinger’s leadoff single, Fortes got the day started early with a two-run home run over the left field wall to set the pace.
A similar path of events occurred in the third when Kessinger got the inning started with a double to right. Jacob Adams scored on a dropped third strike, setting the stage for Fortes to, once again, deliver in the clutch. Fortes returned with an eerily similar shot in the home bullpen, this one a three-run boost that put the Rebels up 6-0.
Memphis returned with two runs of its own in the fourth on a two-run home run, the only runs allowed by Roth, but again, the Rebels answered.
In the bottom half, the impact players once again emerged in Kessinger and Fortes. Tim Elko led the inning off with a single, followed by Kessinger’s third hit of the day and a Will Golsan walk to load the bases and set the scene for Fortes. Though it didn’t clear the fence, Fortes delivered with a deep ball to right, scoring one on a sacrifice fly.
The inning wasn’t over, however, as Thomas Dillard added the insurance with a double of his own to give the team their eighth and final run of the game. The Rebels held steady at eight for the rest of the game while they relied on their dependable bullpen to hold the lead.
Along the way, Kessinger added his fourth hit of the day to ensure that he held a new career high, and Elko added to his hit collection with his second on the day.
The Rebels improve to 4-0 on the year following the victory against Memphis and will remain in Oxford to take on the Tulane Green Wave over the weekend.
- Junior College transfer Austin Miller made his Rebel debut Tuesday, going 2.0 innings of relief after taking over for Roth.
- Sophomore Houston Roth made his first ever start Tuesday after leading the team in ERA last year, striking out six in four innings of work, en route to earning his first win of the season.
- Grae Kessinger set a new career high in hits with four, with a double and three singles, and also scored three runs.
- Nick Fortes tied his career high of RBI with six, following his two home runs within the first three innings.
- Fortes’ two home runs were not the first time he has done so in a game. Less than a year ago, he did the same against UL-Monroe when he hit two in the same inning on May 2, 2017.
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