"I thought it was a good, clean game by us. Like everything there's good and bad, but more good today," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco after his team improved to 2-1 on the season with an 8-1 win against Arkansas State.
Freshman Sam Smith started the game, having already made an inning-plus appearance at TCU in Friday night's win. Bianco was pleased with his start today.
"I thought Sam was terrific at the beginning of the game," Bianco said after the right-hander went four innings, allowing one run on three hits with a strikeout and a walk. "You can't ask much more from a freshman in the first home game to do what he did."
Smith, who appeared to be stepping up in the preseason and has proven that in two outings, said he was comfortable on the mound Tuesday.
"I felt pretty good for my first start," Smith said. "My defense made me look good. They were making clutch plays."
Smith, who got the win, said having pitched 1.1 innings at TCU helped, and some other aspects of Tuesday also helped him.
"It's a beautiful park. The crowds came out; there was a lot of support out here," he said. "I felt pretty good."
Smith admitted to settling in after the first inning when he gave up a double and a single.
"The first inning I guess I had a little adrenaline going," he said. "After that I settled down and started making pitches. But my defense really made me look good out there."
ASU picked up its lone run in the first inning. After that it was all Ole Miss.
A groundout by Alex Yarbrough got Tanner Mathis home after the junior outfielder had doubled in the third, and that tied the game 1-1.
The Rebels added three runs in the fourth inning and four more in the fifth to pull away.
A three-run homer in the fourth by Zach Kirksey got Will Allen and Preston Overbey home, who had singled and doubled respectively.
"I was in a hitter's count, and he threw me a fast ball at the belt," Kirksey said. "I just put a good swing on it and was able to get a big hit. I was hoping it would get out."
In the fifth, Matt Snyder and Allen scored on a Blake Newalu double after Snyder walked and Allen got a base hit. Kirksey, who was hit by a pitch to reach, scored later on a wild pitch. Senquez Golson doubled for his first hit as a Rebel and plated Newalu.
Up 8-1, pitching and defense took the Rebels home. In the contest, four pitchers in addition to Smith, got mound time.
Freshman Josh Laxer went two innings and allowed nothing but walked two and had a strikeout. Junior Blair Wright went one inning with a strikeout. Freshman Chris Ellis pitched an inning with a walk.
Freshman Casey Mulholland closed things out the final frame allowing two hits with a strikeout. Mulholland actually could have gotten out of it had two potentially caught fly balls actually been caught.
"Another clean game by us," Bianco said. "One errant pickoff throw. Offensively I thought Kirksey was the guy that made the separation for us. (Preston) Overbey had a great night. Senquez (Golson) had a good night.
"Certainly we're better than we even played tonight," he continued. "We have to be a little cleaner and be a little less nervous on the mound. Hopefully the jitters are getting out of us."
Golson A Hit
Senquez Golson's first hit was a double that might have been three bases, given his speed.
"But coming around second, I missed the whole base," the freshman outfielder said. "I was like ‘Well I gotta go back now.' So..."
He said he was supposed to stop anyway, according to a signal from third-base coach Cliff Godwin.
"I got the stop sign, but I might have kept going. I don't know," Golson smiled and said. "Naw, I got the stop sign right there, but coming around there and missing the base, even if I had had the sign to go, I probably wouldn't have been able to go."
Golson admitted it was nice to play in a baseball game again.
"It felt good. It's a hard transition coming over from football to baseball," he said. "I've still got a long way to go. But it feels good to play. There's no better place to play."
Golson said he was behind when he got to baseball.
"A lot. As far as hitting, catching, fly balls. But Coach (Cliff) Godwin helped me out a lot. (Alex) Yarbrough helped me out a lot when I first came over here, doing extra hitting. Yarbrough showed me around, so it's been a good transition so far."
Casey On The Mound
The final inning was the first for Mulholland in his Rebel career. He had tweeted when he arrived at the ballpark he got chills when he drove up.
He had plenty of time to let those subside the next several hours before he went into the game. And then there were the butterflies after that.
"I feel blessed. Great things came with time," said Mulholand, who was 90-91 on the radar in the inning. "I just wanted to get out there and do what I've been dreaming of the past two years now. It felt awesome."
Mulholland, with Tommy John surgery two years ago and an extended rehab afterward, said getting his confidence back was equally as important as getting his "pitching" back.
"Coach (Mike) Bianco and Coach (Carl) Lafferty have been saying over and over time and time again to get better," he said. "They kept telling with time you'll get your confidence back, to get back out there and keep riding the horse and keep doing it.
"You know what, I think every step of the way has been a small step," he continued. "But every step of the way, I've been getting better every day. I'm happy where I am now and feel like I'm finally back to where I need to be to compete in the SEC."
Nervousness? A bit, said Mulholland.
"To be honest with you, yes there was. But not as much as I expected. I've been throwing out here the past fall and into the spring. Mentally before the game I was preparing. I went out there and did it."
Home At Last