By Adam Brown
No. 3 Ole Miss uses a big sixth inning at the plate to take the first game of the series 10-4 over VCU.
Ole Miss’ (5-0) offense continued to heat up on the young season as Kevin Graham hit his third home run of the season.
VCU (2-3) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead over the Rebels in the top of the first after an error at third that came into score on a double by Michael Haydak.
The Rebels right-hander Derek Diamond started the game lights out by retiring the first two batters by strikeout. After an error and double he settled back in. Over the next four frames, Diamond allowed four hits and a run.
Ole Miss answered in the second with three runs as they worked back-to-back walks by Ben Van Cleve and TJ McCants. Third baseman Reagan Burford smashed a two-RBI double that plated Van Cleve and McCants. Burford crossed on a sac fly off the barrel of Peyton Chatagnier.
Chatagnier finished the night going 0-for-2 with three sacrifice flies and three RBI.
Diamond (2-0) worked five complete innings surrendered two runs (no earned runs) with two strikeouts and a walk.
“A more brutal night in which you didn’t have 11,000 (fans) and tougher to get back out there,” head coach Mike Bianco said. (Diamond) did a good job against an offense club that returns a lot of players from last year’s club that hit .290. I thought he handled it. He looked like an ace getting out of jams.
In the sixth, Bianco made the call to the bullpen and brought in true freshman Hunter Elliott. Elliott worked two complete frames struck out four sluggers and allowed a hit.
“It is really neat to watch the young guys perform,” Bianco said. “Especially (Elliott) who has been committed to us for a long time. It is not a surprise to us that he has pitched as well as anybody since stepping on campus.”
Ole Miss left fielder Graham has hit three home runs in three-straight games.
“That’s him,” Bianco said. He is as good of an at-bat that we have in the lineup.”
Sophomore catcher Calvin Harris has stepped in while Hayden Dunhurst is recovering from a pulled hamstring. In the first game of the series, Harris went 2-for-3 with a double, run scored and an RBI.
“(Harris) has been brilliant behind the plate,” Bianco said. He has been able to get some good swings off in good counts. Some of those at-bats we are just asking for him to move the ball and the runners over and he has done more than that.”
Senior Garrett Wood got his first career hit in the form of a double to center in the eighth inning.
Junior right-hander Mitch Murrell came in for an inning as well as Mason Nichols for a frame. The Rams scratched their final two runs in the ninth against Nichols.
Ole Miss and VCU will return to the diamond on Saturday for the second game of the series. The first pitch is set for noon.