By Jeff Roberson
After FIU scored two runs in the top of the first inning on Sunday, Ole Miss came right back with nine runs in the bottom of the same frame. For all practical purposes, this one was over.
Sean Johnson made his first start at Ole Miss and went five innings, allowing four runs, two earned, on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts. He had pitched just one inning in the season opener in 2015 against William and Mary but was sidelined with a season-ending arm situation and surgery.
Today he said he felt great out there after the long road back, which was actually shorter than many can come back from the same situation.
“It wasn’t exactly what I wanted. The command wasn’t exactly there,” Johnson said. “But it was good to go out there and get the win, most importantly. My arm felt good. I might have had some jitters. I kept competing and kept battling, and my boys kept battling out there for me.”
Johnson, who would have been a weekend starter last season most likely, said he was pleased to be on the mound and pitching again.
“I’m really proud of myself to be able to work back and get a start at the very beginning of the year,” he said. “I got the jitters out now. I can come out and pitch well against Louisville (next weekend).”
Other Rebel pitchers on Sunday were redshirt freshman Brady Feigl (one inning, no runs, one hit, three strikeouts), who also has recovered from arm injury and surgery to pitch again, junior left-hander Brian Browning (one inning, no runs, no hits, no strikeouts, one walk), freshman righty Connor Green (one inning, one run, no hits, one walk, no strikeouts), and sophomore RHP Will Stokes (one inning, no runs, two hits, no walks, two strikeouts.)
J.B. Woodman, the junior tri-captain, along with Colby Bortles and Matt Denny, had the big bat on the day, going two for three with three RBI and a home run.
Ole Miss hosts Arkansas State at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Freshman RHP James McArthur will get the start, according to Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco.
Bianco on starter Sean Johnson’s first outing after Tommy John surgery a year ago and recovery – “Proud of the way he hung in there. He would admit it wasn’t a great day for him, especially location-wise. But he hung in there.”
Bianco on Tate Blackman’s weekend (6 hits, 6 RBI, 1 home run) – “A terrific weekend. Seems to be swinging it with so much confidence.”
Bianco on shortstop Errol Robinson’s infected finger – “Got to get him on some antibiotics. Just an infection, a weird thing that just popped up. He had trouble this morning hitting in the cage holding the bat.”
Bianco on freshman Ryan Olenek’s first start at shortstop – “Great. I know he’s disappointed with the error, but he made some tough plays today. He’s ready to play now. I have no reservations about that, and he can play anywhere. Infield, outfield, probably see him pitch before it’s all said and done.”
Bianco on the offense with 32 runs on the weekend, including 16 on Sunday – “It’s easy in our game after you win the first two to come out the next day and it’s drizzling and you fall behind 2-0 in the first. Then we put a nine-spot up there. Lot of confident guys. Lot of older guys in the lineup feeling good at the plate.”
Bianco on RHP Brady Feigl, who pitched in his first game after a redshirt year and Tommy John surgery/recovery – “Terrific. He was good, really good and was tough.”
Bianco on the pitching this weekend overall – “We’ve run some new guys out there and some older guys. Some looked terrific and some struggled a little bit. Unfortunately that’s us. We’re running so many new guys out there that some are going to have great days and some others will struggle and have a better day next time.”
J.B. Woodman on the home run – “It’s definitely good to get that first one out of the way, I guess. It was a fast ball down the middle and I put a good swing on it.”
Woodman on the Rebel offense, which had 28 hits and scored 32 runs this weekend – “It was really good. We saw a lot of fast balls, and we swung the bat. Good things happened. I thought Tate (Blackman) had a great weekend. (Will) Golsan had a lot of big hits. It was a lot of fun out there getting a lot of hits and scoring a lot of runs.”