OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - It came down to the wire, but the No. 4 Ole Miss baseball team (24-4, 5-3 SEC) was able to fend off the No. 5 Arkansas Razorbacks (19-8, 5-3 SEC) in a 5-4 win to even the series on Friday night.
Brady Feigl limited the potent Arkansas bats for the first five innings, and the dependable Rebel bullpen managed to stave off any hope of a Razorback comeback, culminating in closer Parker Caracci striking out the side in the ninth inning for his fifth save of the season.
The matchup also entered the top-10 attendance record of Swayze Field, nestling in at number seven on the all-time list with an attendance of 10,648.
The offensive firepower came in the fifth on a two-run home run from the bat of Nick Fortes, in what would prove to be the final runs of the game for the Rebels after getting off to a hot start with three runs in the first two innings. Thomas Dillard and Tyler Keenan each added an RBI, and five runs proved to be enough to earn the win.
Feigl had another consistent outing, going 5.1 innings with only two runs allowed, and of the seven hits he gave up, all were singles. The bullpen behind him was able to pass the rock from pitcher to pitcher until Caracci slammed the door shut in the final two innings. Greer Holston worked 1.1 innings, recording all four outs himself, while Dallas Woolfolk’s 0.1 innings of work proved to be just as vital, getting a strikeout with a runner on base to seal the seventh inning.
Ryan Olenek had a 3-for-4 day at the plate, going a perfect 3-for-3 in his first three appearances at the plate with a pair of singles and a double. Fortes added his sixth home run on the season, tying him with Cole Zabowski for second most on the team behind Dillard. The home-run leader also extended his team-high RBI lead, recording his 26th on the year with an RBI single in the first, while Keenan added the Rebels’ only other runs on a hard hit ball to the Razorback second baseman that skipped off his glove to plate two.
The drama began early as Arkansas threatened to repeat yesterday’s high-scoring start, putting two in scoring position with just one out in the first. Keenan showed his defensive prowess by gunning out a runner on his way home on a ground ball, and Feigl got a quick fly out to keep the Hogs scoreless in the top half.
Ole Miss answered immediately, in a first inning that saw singles from Grae Kessinger and Olenek, followed by an RBI from Dillard. Arkansas responded in the top of the second, scoring a pair of runs on three singles to take their first and only lead of the day, but again the Rebels had a response.
The bottom of the second saw a Golsan walk followed by a double down the line by Chase Cockrell, and Keenan brought them both home on a hard hit ball to second that glanced off the Razorback second baseman's glove and into the outfield, bringing both runners home.
The score remained 3-2 in favor of the Rebels until the fifth inning, that just earlier had seen Feigl exit after 5.1 innings pitched with four strikeouts, four walks, and seven walks. Holston took over in the top half and silenced any hope for a Razorback offensive charge with two strikeouts. Fortes added a pair of insurance runs with his homer in the bottom half, and the Rebels held the three-run lead until the seventh.
Following a Razorback RBI double off of Holston, head coach Mike Bianco elected to bring in Woolfolk for the one-out situation, and he didn’t disappoint. Woolfolk got the immediate strikeout but allowed a double to open the eighth, opening the door for Caracci’s six-out save opportunity.
Fortes gunned down a runner in the eighth, and Golsan had a catch on the warning track to help Caracci through the inning, and the game moved to the ninth. It didn’t take No. 65 long to make work of the Razorbacks in the final inning, striking out the side and closing the game drama-free without allowing a runner to reach.
The rubber match is set for Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CT, with James McArthur set to take the mound for the Rebels as they go for the series victory.