By: Jeff Roberson
But it was offensively that the Rebels mixed it up and found a way to win, along with a healthy dose of some stellar defense.
“We were able to put some innings together,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “It’s a veteran offense. We took advantage of a walk here or there, able to bunt a ball, get them in from third. Keith (Kessinger on radio postgame interview) said we were nine for nine with runners at third and less than two outs. Those things last year as a young offense we struggled with. I was more disappointed (today) in some latter innings where I thought we took some fast balls and didn’t do a good job getting some swings off.
“But it’s hard to complain with the offense. Seven runs today and nine runs last night (in a 9-2 UM season-opening win).”
The Rebel starter, juco transfer junior Chad Smith, had a quick first inning and got some solid run support in the bottom of the first. A 3-0 UM lead heading into the second was in jeopardy, though, as the Panthers got a run in and had the bases loaded with one out. But a visit to the mound by Bianco followed by two Smith strikeouts ended things there, with UM up 3-1.
Smith went 3.2 innings and with the score tied 3-3, Bianco called on freshman RHP Andy Pagnozzi to pitch. He faced one batter in the fourth and things stood 3-3 when the inning concluded.
Pagnozzi, the winning pitcher who got the player of the game t-shirt for his part of the victory, went 2.1 innings and kept things right where they were so the Rebel offense could get going again.
In the sixth Ole Miss put up four runs to pull away and basically secure the victory. Kyle Watson got the Rebels the lead back on a RBI single that scored Tate Blackman who had reached on a single. A Will Golsan double plated three runs to clear the bases and give the Rebels a 7-3 lead.
Freshman James McArthur was called on to pitch the seventh and went an inning, giving up one run. Veteran closer Wyatt Short finished things off in the final two frames for the save.
Defensively Ole Miss had some spectacular plays, as Cameron Dishon made a catch as he was racing back and falling to the ground, actually turning a flip in left field as he made the play. Later J.B. Woodman made a great fly ball catch in right and throw to home plate to get a runner out. Solid defense helped win this one.
The Rebels are errorless in their first two games.
Game three is at Noon Sunday.
Mike Bianco on winning pitcher Andy Pagnozzi: “We needed somebody who could throw the ball into the strike zone, and Andy was that guy today. He was terrific. He located his fast ball on both sides of the plate.”
Bianco on starter Chad Smith: “Chad struggled. It just looked like he had some nerves and just wasn’t himself. He just really had no command and so he struggled out there. If he didn’t walk them he got behind in the count.”
Bianco on freshman RHP James McArthur: “He’s going to be a special pitcher, but today was unlike him. Nerves a little bit and just not as good a command. Much like (freshman) Andrew (Lowe) last night.”
Bianco on the young pitchers so far these first two games: “There’s so many first-time pitchers running out there and pitching in front of 10,000. There’s not much you can do to prepare (for that type environment), but you’ve got to handle it. We’ve got to grow up, and fortunately we’ve played some great defense behind them that minimized some innings. The defense has been outstanding.”
Bianco on Will Golsan being in the two hole Saturday and the five hole Friday in the Rebel lineup: “I think you’re going to see the lineup fluctuate a lot. Will has the ability to bat anywhere. Last year he was third, second, leadoff. I like him in the fifth hole. You’re going to see him move around a lot.”
Bianco on Cameron Dishon’s day: “Last year was the first year for him to play every single day. He had a solid year (in 2015), and a good fall and preseason (this year). He’s off to a great start.”
Winning pitcher and first appearance for Andy Pagnozzi: “I’ve been working all year for this. I felt ready. I felt my team behind me. I was ready to go out there and hit spots. I felt good with my command, spotting fast balls and sliders, and threw a few changeups. Just hit corners and hit spots. That’s all you’ve got to do. I didn’t quite expect to get the shirt. I thought that was going to Golsan.”
First baseman Will Golsan on his 3 RBI double: “They were pitching me in a little bit and I tried to back off the plate a little and get a fast ball to hit. That’s what I got.”
Golsan on being in the two-hole Saturday: “I saw a lot more fast balls. I was just feeling comfortable up there is the biggest thing.”
Golsan on this game being closer than Friday’s victory: “I think it was good. We need the competition and to be ready. We need to get the sweep. Being a close game like that, we have to have our pitching and hitting together. That’s what we had.”