Battling Through

Matt Tracy got dirty, so they gave him a shirt. The player of the game t-shirt, that is.

The senior, playing right field, helped his team in a number of ways as Ole Miss beat Tulane 5-1 Friday night. But in so doing he forced team managers to likely have to use some extra detergent.

Most of the grime, in this case mud since it rained before and during the game, came on a spectacular, belly-landing, diving catch he made for the first out in the top of the fifth inning. That was after he homered in the bottom of the first, a two-run shot to left that put his team up 3-1. And it was before a two-RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to give his team some insurance at 5-1.

The player of the game indeed.

"Felt pretty good," said Tracy following his big night. "I got a few hits and was able to make a play in the field."

Tracy has been in the outfield some this season but he's also pitched for the Rebels. Friday night he proved his versatility and athleticism, and obviously his value to the team.

He said the fly ball in the fifth, which looked almost uncatchable, was his favorite moment of a memorable performance.

"I hadn't done that in a while," he said of his Sports Center highlight play.

"I just ran after it as hard as I could," said Tracy, who was 2-for-4 with four RBI on the night. "The wind brought it back a little bit actually. I wasn't sure if it was fair or foul. I just dove and ended up catching it. It did hurt a little bit, though. I thought I had a chance at it, but I was just worried about catching it and bracing for that fall."

After Matt Crouse made quick work of the Green Wave in the top of the first inning, the Rebels got all the runs they'd need in the bottom of the first. There were two outs when the runs were scored.

Matt Crouse pitched well against the Green Wave
Courtesy: Bruce Newman
"And two strikes on each batter," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco of Matt Smith's single, Matt Snyder's double, and Tracy's home run.

Tracy said his home run in the first was a perfect bat meet ball scenario.

"I'd fouled off a pitch before that, maybe a slider or something," he said. "I thought he would go to the changeup, because he likes to throw it to lefties. He left it up and I was able to put a good swing on it.

"I got 0-2 which I didn't want to do," Tracy said.

On this night, that was obviously the count to have.

Matt Crouse went five innings and faced the first batter of the sixth to a 2-1 count when rain delayed the game for 50 minutes. The junior lefty allowed a run on four hits with two strikeouts.

Jake Morgan relieved Crouse and finished things up, his longest outing of the season at four innings. The senior closer had two hits and two strikeouts.

"It felt really good to go that long. It's been a while," said Morgan, who continues to get back from Tommy John surgery and rehab. "During the rehab process we‘d throw three bullpens a week. Four innings felt like nothing today. The longer I was on the mound, the better I felt."

"Crouse did a great job, and Morgan at the end," Bianco said. "It's really neat to watch those two guys pitch. When you get two guys that have very good stuff and they show the command, it's amazing the pace of the game. It's amazing they can get outs and get out of jams.

"Tip your hat to Tulane," Bianco continued. "They had some great at-bats and hit some doubles and put Crouse in trouble. But he battled back and made pitches and got out of it."

Bianco also tipped his hat to Tracy.

"Matt Tracy was superb tonight," he said. "With the bat and with the glove as well."

Tracy said getting the first game behind them and having it in the win column is big, especially since the Green Wave (7-3) is a formidable foe. The Rebels are now 10-1.

"This is a huge win for us," Tracy said. "You don't know how these rain delay games are going to go. Jake (Morgan) and (Matt) Crouse did an awesome job of just filling it up and getting through some quick innings and helping the game flow.

"And it's a big win because that's a good team over there," Tracy continued. "It's a good way to start the weekend."

And a good way to get a nice, new, clean shirt.

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