Midweek Romp

Sam Smith needed this day. Ole Miss needed for Sam Smith to have a day like this.

The senior right-hander, starting his 50th game at Ole Miss, pitched six innings, allowing only one run on four hits with four strikeouts and just one walk.

Smith, who had struggled this season, was pleased with his outing as the Rebels beat Tennessee-Martin 11-1 in Oxford.

“I’ve kind of just let the stress off my back,” Smith said of his recent better outings. “I was really pressuring myself earlier in the year. Now I’ve just kind of let go. Not get too emotional and be calm and easy.”

Smith had a sports hernia surgery in the fall. It was apparently slow to heal, although Smith never used it as an excuse this season.

“Josh Porter (team trainer) has done a really good job with that,” Smith said. “I had some issues earlier, but I don’t think it had anything to do with my performances really.”

Against the Skyhawks, Smith went longer than he has all season.

“I threw most of my pitches for strikes, which allowed me to go through the lineup more than once. That has been an issue for me,” said Smith, now 2-4 this season.

A four-run second and a five-run fourth were the big innings for the Rebels. In the fourth, Colby Bortles hit his second grand slam in a week, the first one coming at Vanderbilt over the weekend.

After Bortles gave the Rebels an 8-0 lead, Sikes Orvis followed with a solo shot to make it 9-0 through four frames.

Bortles added another home run, this time without any runners on base, in the sixth after UT-Martin had scored its lone run in the top of the sixth. It was 9-1 and the Rebels were cruising.

Orvis even had a stolen base in the game, only the second of his four-year career.

"One of the phenomenon that happens in baseball," Orvis said, laughing. "I slipped through enough to get in there."

“Confidence,” Bortles said of the difference in himself now and perhaps earlier this season. “Just gaining that confidence back with my teammates picking me up is the main part. I think (the team) is showing more confidence. It showed at Vandy and this game, getting a little bit of our swagger back. We have a lot of momentum.”

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said Smith’s outing was big because they not only need him but also other pitchers to step up as the season moves on.

“The last three outings for Sam were good. And it was something we needed,” Bianco said. “I thought he was the best he’s been all year. And to win the game in dominant fashion was big. He was in the zone and looked like he was in command with every hitter. It was important to see that.”

Scott Ashford, Drake Robison, and Matt Denny pitched an inning apiece to finish things out.

Smith said he believes the team is headed in the right direction.

“After an emotional weekend at Vandy,” he said, “to come out here and play a clean baseball game feels good.”

Ole Miss and Auburn begin play on the plains Friday night at 6 p.m. on SEC Network+.


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