Close-Out Win

Matt Smith's return was successful Tuesday night. He reached base five times, and his team beat Southeast Missouri State 10-6.

The senior captain, coming off hand surgery less than two weeks ago, was 4-for-4 with 3 RBI and a walk.

Smith said his hand didn't present too much of a problem. That was obvious, at least if you look at his results in this one.

"It feels fine," said Smith, who fractured a finger on his left/glove hand at Arkansas State 13 days ago and had surgery the following day in Jackson. "I still just rehab it every day and get it stronger. It's not as bad when I hit the ball."

A decision to play Smith, in his usual right field spot, wasn't made until Monday afternoon.

"We were in there hitting, and I was hitting off the tee. It felt fine," he said. "Coach was like ‘You want to hit BP?' And I was like ‘Yeah.' So I hit BP and then came out on the field and hit. So yesterday was the day (the decision was made)."

Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said Smith has been an amazing player at Ole Miss, and Tuesday night's game adds to his legacy.

"Smith was tremendous," Bianco said. "When I say he's one of the greatest players to play here, I mean it. To do what he's done, he's remarkable. (His teammates) really look up to him. You watch him and it looks like he hasn't even been out (for nearly two weeks)."

Ole Miss (29-23) actually got things rolling in this one after it appeared they might be in some form of early trouble. Redhawks were on first and second in the top of the first inning when Michael Adamson sent a hard hit ball toward Rebel third baseman Alex Yarbrough.

Yarbrough stepped on third, threw to Blake Newalu at second, then Newalu threw to Will Allen at first for a rare triple play.

Matt Smith
Bruce Newman
"That was pretty neat," Smith said as he had watched it from his right field position.

"That kind of triple play is really difficult," Bianco said, meaning the relays have to move fast to get the feat accomplished. "Great play by Yarbs, but a heck of a turn by Blake because it wasn't a great throw. And (Adamson) is a guy that can run."

The next inning starter R.J. Hively struck out four batters as on one of his strikeouts he threw a wild pitch which allowed a Redhawk to reach.

SEMO (29-20) went up 3-0 in the top of third inning, but the Rebels answered and then some in the bottom of the third. A Miles Hamblin two-run home run gave the Rebels a 4-3 lead, one that they never relinquished.

It was 7-3 through five innings and remained that way until the eighth when Smith singled home Yarbrough, followed by a two-run homer into the visiting bullpen in right by Matt Snyder.

The Redhawks added three runs in the top of the ninth for the final margin.

Trent Rothlin, one of five pitchers used by Ole Miss, got the win and is 3-0 this season. SEMO starter Josh Syberg (2-2) got the loss.

"I was proud of the pitchers tonight," Bianco said. "Guys that haven't pitched a ton, we needed them to eat up innings. With the early Thursday game again this week, we didn't want to use (Eric) Callender, Bobby (Wahl), and (Brett) Huber. So that was good."

The Rebels, who outhit the Redhawks 14 to 12, now head to Arkansas to close out the regular season Thursday night through Saturday.

"I was excited to be playing again," Smith said. "I actually got to play my last game here (in Oxford). I didn't want to end my senior year not playing. It was exciting for me to get one more chance to play at Swayze."

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