Settling In

Zach Kirksey admitted some nerves over the weekend, and it showed. His first opportunity as a Division I player was a dropped fly ball in the top of the first inning of the first game of the season.

In Tuesday's 4-2 Ole Miss win against Memphis, the junior outfielder from LSU-Eunice redeemed himself.

He was responsible for a double play which ended the second inning, and he helped his team offensively with a leadoff home run in the sixth.

"I had a rough weekend," Kirksey said. "It's something I have to get used to with all these fans. It's definitely new to me. I played at junior college and on a good game we drew about 75. So 8,200 was a little bit different."

The Rebels, now 4-0 on the season, are ahead 1-0 when Kirksey makes his play at the plate – from left field. The Tigers Bryan Picou hits a one-out fly ball to Kirksey in fairly shallow left. Kirksey then rockets it to Rebel catcher Miles Hamblin who is at the plate ready to tag out Memphis catcher Phillip Chapman, which he does.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said it was more than just another big play in the game.

"I thought Kirksey's play on the sac fly where he threw the guy out at the plate was really the turning point of the game," he said. "If they score, it's a different ballgame from that point on. You're fighting to get the lead back. That kept the momentum in our dugout."

Ole Miss, which outhit Memphis 10-8, had taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a Matt Snyder RBI single up the middle which got Alex Yarbrough home after the Rebel second baseman reached on a fielder's choice. Snyder paced the Rebels at the plate, going 2 for 2 with an RBI, a run scored, and two walks.

Tracy was solid through six innings
Bruce Newman
The score stayed that way until the fifth when the Rebels added a couple of runs. A two-out double by Snyder got things started, followed by a Miles Hamblin single to score Snyder and a Jordan King double to get Hamblin home. It was 3-0 at that point.

That's when the leadoff home run by Kirksey, a blast over the right field bullpen, in the sixth padded the Ole Miss advantage to 4-0.

Matt Tracy had drawn the start in this one and put up good numbers through six innings. The senior lefty allowed no runs on four hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.

"I was anxious to get back out there on the mound," said Tracy, who had 24 appearances and four starts last season. "I felt pretty comfortable. I struggled a little early. But it was good to be back out there."

Mike Mayers (1.1 IP, 2 runs, 3 hits, 0 K, 0 BB) relieved Tracy to start the seventh. He gave up a one-out double but nothing else that frame. In the eighth, a couple of Memphis base hits were followed by a fly out to right. But Bianco pulled Mayers in favor of Jake Morgan at that point.

Morgan finished the game, going 1.2 innings with no runs and one hit with two strikeouts and no walks.

Bianco said seeing Kirksey come back from the weekend was a fun thing to witness.

"It's neat. It's one of the neat things about being a college baseball coach. You watch kids improve. You watch kids handle adversity. The first game he gets almost the exact same play, and the first run of the year scores. Today he catches it, throws the guy out at the plate, and keeps the momentum with us."

Tracy was clearly appreciative.

"That was a huge play by Zach Kirksey," he said. "To catch it and throw him out right there was huge for us and got us a little momentum."

Ole Miss and Arkansas State play at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Freshman right-hander Bobby Wahl will get the start for the Rebels.

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