COLLEGE STATION, Texas (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - It was a wild Saturday in College Station, Texas, where No. 5 Ole Miss and No. 11 Texas A&M combined for 13 runs and 27 hits as the Rebels emerged with a 7-6 win in the Southeastern Conference rubber match.
Head coach Mike Bianco's squad improved to 22-3 on the season and 4-2 in SEC contests with consecutive series wins to open league play.
The Rebels fell behind early but claimed the lead on an explosive offensive day, including towering home runs by both first baseman Cole Zabowski and third baseman Tyler Keenan. From there, Ole Miss turned to its dominant bullpen, and the Rebel relievers delivered, culminating with a full-count strikeout of Logan Foster by right-hander Parker Caracci with the winning run at the plate.
The Aggies scored in each of the first three innings to take an early 4-1 lead, the only Rebel run coming on a massive home run by Zabowski to straightaway center field. Keenan followed suit in the fourth. Immediately after a double by center fielder Will Golsan, Keenen smashed a two-run shot over the center field wall to make it a 4-3 game.
Left fielder Thomas Dillard started a two-out rally in the fifth, reaching on a fielding error. On the very next pitch, Zabowski nearly had his second homer to center, but he settled for an RBI double off the wall to tie the game. On the first pitch of the next at-bat, Golsan singled into right to send Zabowski home and give Ole Miss its first lead, 5-4.
Texas A&M tied the contest in the bottom of the fifth, but the Rebels took control in the seventh. Dillard again sparked the rally with a double down the left field line and extend his hitting streak to 14 games. Golsan then cracked his second RBI double of the game down the right field line. Later in the inning, designated hitter Chase Cockrell stayed hot, sending a single to left to make it a 7-5 Rebel advantage--a run that proved the deciding factor in the game.
While the offense did its part, the Rebels turned to three of their most dominant arms out of the bullpen to shut the door on a dangerous group Texas A&M batters. Dallas Woolfolk came on to bridge the gap after a leadoff double in the fifth inning. The junior right-hander allowed just one inherited runner to score before retiring the home team. He then faced just four batters in the sixth, churning his way through the inning with relative ease. The Southaven, Mississippi, native finished at two innings pitched with no runs allowed on three hits and no walks and earned his first win of the season.
After Woolfolk came 6-foot-5 right-hander Will Ethridge. Ethridge struck out six and allowed no runs in three innings of work on Friday, and he was even more dominant the second time facing the Aggie lineup. Ethridge turned in back-to-back 1-2-3 innings, striking out two along the way to set the stage for Caracci.
Caracci had a tall task of facing the top of the Texas A&M order, featuring four Aggies batting over .300. The Aggie hitters made Caracci work through four at-bats of six or more pitches to earn his third save of the season. The home team plated one run on a double off the wall and simultaneously put the tying run in scoring position, and the game-winning run, represented by the Aggies' home-run leader in Foster, at the plate. However, the Rebel reliever out of Jackson, Mississippi, won the battle of nerves, fanning Foster to cap an eight-pitch at-bat and give Ole Miss the one-run win.
The Rebels return to action with a tough midweek test against No. 15 Southern Miss on Tuesday at Swayze Field. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. CT.
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