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Rebels Take Game One From Kentucky

The No. 11 Ole Miss baseball team used a two-out rally to score six runs in the sixth inning on its way to a 9-6 victory over No. 19 Kentucky Thursday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium. With the win, the Rebels (15-7, 3-1 SEC) snapped the Wildcats’ (16-7, 3-1 SEC) eight-game winning streak and gave them their first loss in conference play.
The Ole Miss offense came alive in the first game of the series, pounding 14 hits that included five doubles. Freshman Grae Kessinger led the way with a team-high three hits to go along with two runs and two RBI. The Oxford, Mississippi, native got Ole Miss going with a two-run homer in the third, his second of the season. Five other Rebels produced multi-hit games as well: Will Golsan, Ryan Olenek, Tim Rowe, Thomas Dillard and Cooper Johnson.
Making his return to the mound after missing the last two weekends due to a mild forearm strain, sophomore James McArthur (1-1) turned in a solid outing against the SEC’s best hitting team, statistically. The New Braunfels, Texas, native, allowed only one run on five hits through 5.0 innings to earn the win. Dallas Woolfolk (6) worked the Rebels out of a jam in the eighth before retiring the side in the ninth to earn another save.
The Rebels got four runs on six hits off reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week Sean Hjelle (3-2). Luke Becker went 3-for5 with two doubles to pace the UK bats, while T.J. Collett added a pinch-hit grand slam.
After a scoreless first two innings for both teams, the road Rebels drew first blood in the top of the third. Leading off, Dillard smacked the first Ole Miss hit of the game off the wall in right. However, the hard ricochet kept the freshman at first base for a single. Two batters later, Kessinger drove a ball to the short porch in right-center field. The deep fly cleared the wall for a homer to give the Ole Miss the early 2-0 advantage.
UK sliced the Ole Miss lead in half with a run in the fourth. Becker recorded his second leadoff double of the game and moved to third on a base hit into right field. With runners on the corners and nobody out, a sacrifice fly brought Becker home to put Kentucky on the board. That’s all the Wildcats would get as McArthur forced a groundball double play to end the inning and keep his team in front.
In the sixth, the Rebels broke open the game with some impressive two-out hitting. Back-to-back singles by Rowe and Cockrell started the rally, lifting Hjelle from the game. With Dillard at the dish, Kentucky decided to bring in a lefty to flip the freshman around to the right side. The change didn’t faze Dillard as he roped a double down the left field line, plating two Rebels and increasing the lead to three. Cooper Johnson followed with a single that scored Dillard, while Kessinger notched his second hit of the night. With two more Rebels on base, Golsan added a double to left to clear the bases. Capping off the big inning, Olenek nearly left the yard with a double off the monstrous wall in right field. Golsan scored to make it 8-1, but Olenek was thrown out at third trying to stretch out a triple. Nonetheless, seven straight hits finished the six-run inning.
Ole Miss added an insurance run in the eighth. Johnson led off the inning with a double down the left field line before he advanced to third on another hit by Kessinger. The Rebel shortstop almost hit his second home run of the night, but the big wall in right prevented it. On a wild pitch, Johnson motored home to increase the lead to 9-1.
Kentucky gave the Rebels a scare in the bottom half of the frame, scoring five runs to make it a three-run game. Collett provided a pinch-hit grand slam, and the Wildcats brought the tying run to the plate with two on and two out. Head coach Mike Bianco elected to go back to the bullpen to bring in his closer. Woolfolk got the job done, sending the UK hitter down swinging to keep the lead intact.
Woolfolk returned to the mound for the bottom of the ninth, and made quick work of the Wildcats. Following a pair of groundouts, Olenek caught a fly in center for the game’s final out to lock up the Rebels’ seventh consecutive win over Kentucky.
Ole Miss will have an opportunity to clinch the road series tomorrow night (March 24). A pair of junior lefties will take the mound as David Parkinson squares off against UK’s Zach Logue. First pitch is slate for 5:30 p.m. CT on SECN+ and the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network.

Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports

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