JONESBORO, Ark. (Ole Miss Athletics/WTVA) - The Ole Miss Rebels controlled the ballgame for the contest's first eight-and-a-half innings, but costly mistakes and a late surge by Arkansas State propelled the Red Wolves to a 6-5 walk-off victory and a heartbreaking loss for the visiting team.
Ole Miss led 5-0 at one point in the eighth inning, but a two-run homer by the home team cut the Rebel lead to just three. An inning later, the Rebels lost control of a three-run edge with one out in the inning thanks to three singles and an error.
Before the worries started in the ninth, Zack Phillips had turned in one of his better starts to date, going five-and-a-third innings until finally running into trouble in the sixth inning. Phillips' last scoreless outing came in the beginning of April. He finished his day with no runs allowed on five hits, two walks, and five strikeouts.
Connor Green also showcased a strong return to form, coming in when the Rebels needed him most and shutting down a would-be rally by the Red Wolves. After being welcomed in to a bases-loaded situation in the sixth, he made it out of the inning unscathed as part of his entry into the game that saw him retire the only five batters he faced.
Anthony Servideo got the Rebel offense started out on the right track in the first inning, leading off the game with a single right back up the middle. Grae Kessinger moved him over with a nicely-placed sacrifice bunt to third, his first such bunt of the year, but to no avail, as a pair of balls in play left the two lead Rebel runners stranded.
The Red Wolves threatened to score in the bottom of the first after they led off the frame with a double just past the diving body of Ryan Olenek in center, and looked in prime position to score after a sacrifice bunt placed a runner at third with just one out. Phillips, however, capped any offensive rally with a strikeout and a groundout to exit the first unscathed.
After three straight scoreless innings from both teams, the Rebels broke through in a big way with a high-powered fourth inning. Thomas Dillard led off the frame with a walk, before Ryan Olenek made it two on with nobody out with a single through the middle. Kevin Graham made capitalized on the runners, and cashed in with a three-run homer, deposited over the right field fence for the Rebels' first lead of the day.
Tyler Keenan followed up Graham's home run with one of his own an inning later, sending a solo shot over the wall to give the Rebels' a four-run edge after four.
Phillips continued to cruise until hitting his first bump in the sixth inning, when back-to-back one-out singles brought his outing to a premature close. Jordan Fowler was first out of the bullpen, but his outing didn't last long, as a walk to load the bases brought an end to Fowler's day.
Green was forced to inherit a bases-loaded, one out situation, and he didn't disappoint. He rang up Jaylon Deshazier on an 0-2 offspeed pitch, before forcing a groundout hit in the direction of Jacob Adams to strand all three Red Wolves runners on base and get the Rebels out of a jam.
After stifling the offense of Arkansas State, Ole Miss turned right around and added some insurance at the plate. Graham led off the top of the eighth with a single to left, his second hit of the game, before scoring from second on an Arkansas State error that came as the result of a hard hit ball by Keenan.
The Red Wolves answered in the bottom half. Arkansas State's Justin Felix sent a two-run home run over the fence in left against the work of the Rebel left-hander Kaleb Hill, before Tyler Myers was able to come in for a quick third out of the inning and limit the home team to just a pair of runs.
Parker Caracci started off the ninth inning, allowing a walk and two singles before he was relieved after just a third of action for reliever Austin Miller. Miller's first batter took a single into center field, scoring one run, and, after a fielding error by Olenek, plating one more runner from first base in what would be the game's winning run.
The Rebels fell by a score of 6-5, and will be back in action Thursday at 5:30 p.m. CT for the final weekend series of the year at the Tennessee Volunteers.
- Ole Miss falls to 32-21 on the year.
- Grae Kessinger was unable to keep his reached-base streak alive tonight, capping it at 40 games. Kessinger's streak was the longest active in the SEC and the longest by any Rebel since Tanner Mathis reached successfully in 41 straight games in 2011.
- Freshman Kevin Graham gave the Rebels a three-run lead with his eighth home run of the year in the fourth inning. His eight homers ranks fourth on the team.
- Tyler Keenan extended his clubhouse home run lead with a solo shot in the fifth inning, his team-leading 12th homer of the year.
- Zack Phillips turned in his longest outing since going 5.1 innings against Mississippi State in the Governor's Cup on April 23rd of this year. He did not allow a run in an appearance for the first time since April 2.
- Ryan Olenek had three hits today, which ties him with Cole Zabowski with 18 multi-hit games this year.
- Anthony Servideo swiped second base in the third inning for his team-high 20th stolen base of the year. He has been caught stealing just once all year.