OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics/WTVA) - In front of a record crowd of 12,152 at Swayze Field, the boys in red and blue ensured that their fans weren't walking away with a loss.
Thomas Dillard put the team on his back and sent a ball -- and with it, the LSU lead -- over the right field fence to give the No. 5 Rebels (34-11, 12-9 SEC) the lead in the seventh inning and help lift Ole Miss to a 9-8 victory over LSU, winning the series with victories Thursday and Saturday.
James McArthur earned the start, but after being replaced in the third, Will Ethridge went 5.2 innings in relief work, allowing just one run on four hits while keeping the score within striking distance of the Rebel bats.
When the extra arm was needed in the ninth, Parker Caracci answered the call and delivered two strikeouts and a fly ball to right with the bases loaded to seal the game and give the Rebels the victory.
Ryan Olenek extended his SEC-best hitting streak to 20 games, going 2-5 with a pair of singles in his first game back after being held out for precautionary measures for the week's earlier games.
Tim Rowe, whom Mike Bianco found a place for in the lineup even with the presence of Olenek, proved valuable, beginning the scoring spree in the seventh inning with an RBI double, before Grae Kessinger set up Dillard's home run with an RBI single of his own, one of his two RBI on the day.
Offensively, both Chase Cockrell and Thomas Dillard recorded three-run home runs, making up for six of the team's nine runs on the day, but it was Dillard's homer that lifted the Rebels over the Tigers late in the seventh inning.
Cockrell's, a high fly ball over the left field wall in the second inning, got Ole Miss started early, but LSU quickly countered with a scoring spree of their own.
Much like Ole Miss used an eleven-run sixth inning to take game one of the series, the Tigers found their groove in the third inning of today's ballgame, plating six to take an early 7-4 lead. McArthur led off the inning, allowing two walks and two hits before being lifted for freshman reliever Max Cioffi.
Cioffi found a similarly tough Tiger lineup, who saw LSU record three hits off of him, one a double, as well as a sacrifice fly. When Cioffi departed, the Tigers held a commanding lead that would not be tested until the seventh inning. Ethridge ended the skid, recording two quick outs before going on to throw five more quality innings.
While the Tigers struck first with a one-spot in the second inning, the Rebels took the lead early, answering with a four-run bottom of the second, three of which came from the bat of Cockrell, but LSU's six-run third quickly discarded the inning and put Ole Miss in the hole.
While Ethridge ensured that the Tigers would not be adding to their lead, LSU's Caleb Gilbert did the same, appearing in a relief role in the third, going 4.1 innings of quality work before the Rebels finally caught up to him in the seventh.
Tyler Keenan opened up the bottom half of the inning with a double, before Rowe followed with one of his own. Kessinger ensued with yet another RBI, but it was Dillard who did the dirty work, bringing himself, Kessinger, and Nick Fortes home with one swing that sent the ball deep into the student section.
LSU would make things interesting in the ninth. Caracci entered with the bases loaded and no outs, and was able to strike out two before the Tigers plated one on a bases-loaded walk.
With the go-ahead runs on the base path for LSU, Caracci was able to earn his save by forcing a fly out and ensuring the series win.
This weekend featured two of the top-five attendances at Swayze Field, number one and three, respectively, while over 32,000 fans were drawn to the stadium this weekend to see the Rebels take down the Tigers.
The Rebels will return next Wednesday to face Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Swayze Field, set for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch.