Closing out the midweek series, the Ole Miss baseball team bounced back from Tuesday’s loss by soaring past the No. 8 Louisville Cardinals 8-3 Wednesday afternoon. The Rebels (9-7) scored multiple runs in three different innings and added solid pitching from Sam Smith and Will Stokes to pick up the victory.
Due to starting a midweek game, Smith (1-2) lasted four innings on a pitch count to earn the win. He allowed just two runs (one unearned) on four hits and zero walks, while striking out three.
“I knew I could keep my pitch count down if I threw strikes early, and I had a great defense behind me. It was an overall good team effort,” Smith said.
Freshman Will Stokes (2) was nearly perfect through the final five innings of play, surrendering just two hits and one run in the bottom of the ninth after retiring the first 13 Cardinals he faced, to complete his second save of the season. Entering the game with just three strikeouts on the season, Stokes punched out four batters in the relief appearance against Louisville.
“I wanted to finish the game,” noted Stokes. “I just wanted to do my best, go out there and see what happens.”
Ole Miss Head Coach Mike Bianco was pleased with both of his pitchers on the afternoon. “I thought he (Sam Smith) was terrific; he was lights out. Stokes was dominating – because he threw so many strikes and kept his pitch count down, we kept him in there to finish the game.”
Ole Miss recorded eight hits on the afternoon as six different Rebels recorded base knocks. Sophomore J.B. Woodman and junior Cameron Dishon had two hits each, while freshman Kyle Watson scored a team-high three runs. Along with the eight hits, the Rebels also walked eight times and took advantage of two Louisville errors that led to five runs.
The Rebels gave Louisville’s Drew Harrington (2-1) his first loss of the 2015 campaign as the southpaw gave up three unearned runs on one hit and two walks. The Cardinals tallied just six hits and did not get one after the third inning until the bottom of the ninth.
Ole Miss struck first due to a combination of a two-out rally and a major Louisville miscue. With two outs in the top of the third, Watson doubled for the Rebels’ first hit of the ballgame to spark the offense. A little wildness by Harrington, a hit batter and a walk, loaded the bases full of Rebels for Colby Bortles. The Ole Miss third baseman hit a fly ball to shallow right field near the foul line. Attempting to get under the ball, UL right fielder Nick Solak overran the ball and dropped the catch. Running on contact with two outs, the bases were cleared on the error as all three Rebels crossed the plate to give Ole Miss the three-run advantage.
The Cardinals answered in the bottom half of the inning with a pair of runs. Louisville loaded the bases with three consecutive hits, including two infield singles. Smith recorded a big strikeout before Dishon tracked down a fly to deep right center field for the second out of the inning as the sacrifice fly scored a runner. Louisville added another run on an Ole Miss error that kept the inning alive, but Smith got out of the jam with a groundout to second base, keeping the Rebels ahead by one, 3-2.
The Rebels re-gained their three-run cushion with two runs in the top of the fifth, once again making Louisville pay for a mistake. The inning was similar to the three-run third inning as Watson started things off by reaching on an error before Will Golsan and Woodman drew back-to-back walks. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Bortles grounded into a double play, but a run crossed the plate to increase the Ole Miss lead. Sikes Orvis followed the scoring play with a two-out RBI on a smoked base hit to right field, scoring Woodman to make it a 5-2 contest at the halfway point.
After Smith exited in the fourth due to being on a pitch count, Stokes entered the contest and held the Louisville bats at-bay. The freshman sent the Cardinals down in order in four straight innings.
Although the first five runs of the game were unearned, the Rebels broke out the bats in the eighth to charge three runs to the Louisville pitching staff on four hits. Three straight hits by Errol Robinson, Tate Blackman and Dishon set up a RBI for Watson on a fielder’s choice. Golsan followed with a sacrifice fly before Woodman went opposite field for a RBI ground-rule double. When the dust settled, Ole Miss had doubled the game’s margin, 8-2
Stokes saw his perfect outing come to an end with one out in the bottom of the ninth. His streak of retiring 13 hitters in-a-row ended with a single through the infield. A double brought the runner around to score, but the right-hander was able to get the final two batters of the game out to nail down the save and the victory for the Rebels.
Ole Miss will have a travel day before returning to the diamond to kick off SEC play on Friday. The Rebels will head south to Baton Rouge, La. to face the Tigers of LSU. First pitch of Friday night’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT on SEC Network+. The final two weekend battles versus the Tigers will be nationally-televised on the SEC Network.