Offensive Explosion

The new bats may have sent only one pitch out of the yard on Opening Day, but the offensive output for Ole Miss was impressive in a 15-6 win against Wright State in Oxford.

"Obviously it was a good night for us offensively," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco after his team posted 17 hits. But he thought there was much, much more to this one.

"I also thought it was huge for a relatively young team with some new guys out there in different roles, and for us to fall behind 3-0 and for Matt Crouse to handle the pressure. And he really pitched great," Bianco said.

Ole Miss fell behind 3-0 in the first inning, thanks mainly to two outfield errors – one each on left fielder Zach Kirksey and right fielder Matt Tracy. But the Rebels put up a seven spot in the bottom of the first and never looked back.

"We come up to bat and hit three singles in a row, and their guy struggles a little," Bianco said of the bottom of the first. "And he's a terrific pitcher."

Indeed Casey Henn is, the Raiders' ace who had a solid season in 2010. But he didn't last the first inning on Friday, allowing seven runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

"We got some hits, he started to walk some guys, he hit a few guys, and we were able to extend the inning," Bianco said. "I think that was really the difference in the whole game was the way we extended the first inning."

Crouse, on the other hand, wasn't sensational but was effective. He also mentioned there were some nerves at first.

"We were a little nervous, all of us, in the first inning," said Crouse who went six innings, allowing just two earned runs on six hits with three strikeouts and no walks. "But things settled down and went well after that. I felt comfortable as the game went on and was able to make more pitches. It was good to get a win."

Miles Hamblin's solo shot to right in the bottom of the seventh inning was the lone ball to leave the park. But besides the lack of the long ball, the Rebels displayed an impressive array of offensive production.

Matt Crouse
Bruce Newman
"A lot of offense out there today," said Matt Smith, who played first base and went 4-for-4 with three RBI, two runs scored, and a walk. "We've really been pounding it coming in with the intrasquads and everything. Coach (Bianco) said a couple of times that as far as the offensive standpoint, he doesn't know if he's seen a team as ready as we have been showing."

And they showed it today, starting in the first. All seven Rebel runs came on six singles, along with two walks and two hit batsmen. Tanner Mathis and Alex Yarbrough each had two hits, an RBI and a run scored. Preston Overbey's two-run base hit to left field came in his first at-bat as a collegian.

Mathis, in the leadoff spot, got things rolling for the Rebels.

"You could just tell we were nervous at first," said Mathis, a sophomore. "Running out there and everybody getting goose bumps. I was here last year, and I was more nervous this year than last year. They put up a three spot, and we come back and knock them in the mouth."

Mathis agreed the Rebel offense was ready.

"Fifteen runs is a lot," he said, quipping that would have been quite a showing with the old bats, much less the new ones.

Overbey was 2-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored. His teammates were impressed with his debut.

"The guy stepping up as a freshman, he didn't make any errors over there (at third base), and he looked comfortable," Smith said. "He had a couple of hits. You would never know he is a freshman, and he is going to help us a lot."

Bianco said the Rebels settled in after the rocky start.

"We didn't play well (early), nor did they. But we handled it," he said. "As a coach, that's what you're not sure of earlyon, but we certainly handled it tonight."

Wright State had 13 hits. Eric Callender, who got the save, finished things up for Crouse, going three innings with one run on seven hits, two strikeouts and no walks.

Crouse was the winner and Henn, one of four WSU pitchers in the game, was the loser.

Smith, a fifth-year Rebel player who has seen it all, said it was good to see the team bounce back from the early deficit and dominate.

"That first inning defensively we were shaky," Smith said. "For whatever reason it was like that. But we knew we were going to swing and be good. That really started from the first inning on."

Game two is set for Saturday at 1:30 p.m. with Rebel right-hander David Goforth facing left-hander Cody Kopilchack of WSU.

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