OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics/WTVA) - No. 7 Ole Miss took both games from No. 12 Georgia on Saturday, back-ending its third SEC series of the season in a pair of victories by the score of 5-1 and 8-4. James McArthur and Brady Fiegl each picked up wins on the day. The day-night sweep was the first time Ole Miss has swept an SEC doubleheader since doing it against Alabama in April of 2015.
Game 1 - Ole Miss 8, Georgia 4
Will Stokes, a man who has pitched a collection of big moments throughout his career, said earlier this week that he needed to be better in order for the Ole Miss bullpen to thrive. He delivered on that declaration Saturday, piecing together 3.2 innings of relief in succession of Rebel starter Brady Fiegl, earning a save in the team’s 8-4 win to even the series and preserve Feigl’s seventh win of the season.
“That’s the Will Stokes we have seen for so many years,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “We needed that kind of effort today, especially in game one because it saved the bullpen for game two.”
Stokes also preserved a good chunk of the bullpen for the finale in the second part of the doubleheader by gobbling up the final 11 outs of the ballgame. He fanned four hitters and blew it by the Bulldog lineup for the better part of three innings.
After the three scoreless innings to open the day, Ole Miss answered an Aaron Schunk solo shot in the fourth when Tyler Keenan hoisted a fly ball to left field in the bottom half of the inning that was deep enough to score Thomas Dillard. Keenan produced in an even bigger spot in the fifth when he came up with the bases loaded and two outs by lacing a two-RBI base hit up the middle to give the Rebels a 5-1 advantage.
“He is terrific,” Bianco said. “It shows why he is such a talented freshman. He’s good. He is very underrated defensively. He makes so many plays and makes them look easy too.”
Keenan’s hit came after an RBI double from Grae Kessinger and an RBI single from Ryan Olenek. Olenek extended his hitting streak to 19 games with hits in both contests on the day.
Georgia answered with a run in the fifth and the sixth. Thomas Dillard fought off a ball on the inner half in the bottom of the sixth for a two-out RBI knock to extend the lead to 6-3, and Will Golsan put the ballgame away with his two-out, two-RBI base hit through the left side the eighth to make it 8-3. The win put the Rebels back over. 500 in SEC play at 9-8 and notched their 31st victory of the season.
Ole Miss won the ballgame by the power of its two greatest strengths: The offense scored more than enough runs, and the bullpen stifled the Bulldog offense in the late innings of the game.
Game 2 - Ole Miss 5, Georgia 2
Will Golsan rounded first base and barked at the baseball he hit as it sailed through the air toward the right field seating. He had just launched a 3-2 curveball from Bulldog reliever Tony Locey into the sky for a two-run home run over the left field fence in the fifth inning.
“He threw it to me last night,” Golsan said. “I thought he might throw it to me again so I was kind of waiting on it. I had to talk to it a little bit to get it out just in case.”
It was Golsan’s second home run of the day—the first two-home run game of his baseball career—and gave Ole Miss a commanding 5-0 as it tried to close out this series.
The first came in the second inning when he obliterated a fastball to a similar part of the park for a solo shot to put the Rebels on the board. Tyler Keenan followed that two batters later by roping a double into the right field corner and plating Chase Cockrell from first base. Golsan’s pair of blasts to left helped him secure a career-high five RBI and bring his season total to 32. He’s pulled his batting average up more than 70 points since late March and is now on the verge of hitting .300.
“I am trying to stick to my approach, and I feel like I have been swinging it well all season, balls just have not been falling,” Golsan said. “It feels good to see a couple drop. I feel good.”
James McArthur made good on the cushion provided by the Ole Miss captain by turning in six innings of two-hit, shutout baseball.
“The breaking ball was there today and it made my fastball a little bit tougher,” McArthur said. “That definitely helped. There was some really good defense behind me.”
Georgia plated its first run on a Max Cioffi wild pitch, which was charged to McArthur as the lone blemish in a gem of an outing. The lanky right-hander pitched splendidly and struck out four hitters.
Will Ethridge ran into a little trouble in the eighth when he came on in relief of Cioffi, who exited after a one-out triple from Keegan McGovern, but a Parker Caracci slider in a 2-2 count forced a Mason Meadows groundout to third that stranded the bases loaded.
“That was just huge,” McArthur said. “The back end of our bullpen is so talented. We have so many guys we can go to. For them to come in and have success was great.”
The Ole Miss bullpen—who by their own account had struggled of late—came up huge in both games for the Rebels and helped power them to this doubleheader sweep.
“They were terrific,” Bianco said. “They made the plays. That is what we were doing up until two weeks ago. The last couple of weeks we haven’t done enough to make a pitch or play to get us off the field. Today we did that.”
It kept a 5-2 Rebel lead intact and ensured Ole Miss would win its fourth SEC series of the season, three of which it has back-ended after dropping the first game.
McArthur improved to 5-0 on the season, and the Rebels moved to 32-9 (10-8). The series win vaulted them to the top of the SEC West standings after slipping a bit the last two weekends.
Most importantly, the team responded after being hit with adversity really for the first time all season after three consecutive one-run losses in league play. Ole Miss came out and put together two solid games against a Georgia club that came in sitting in second place in the SEC East.
“We’ve gone through a little adversity the past two weekends but we bounced back,” Golsan said. “We know what we are capable of doing.”