Game Story By: Jeff Roberson
The teammate he inherited the eighth-inning jam from was the Rebels’ other closer, Wyatt Short, who didn’t quite get things done as he usually does.
Stokes finished the game and got his fifth save of the 2016 season. Short has six saves.
Those two are tough to beat. But it took them both of them on this night to win game one of a three-game set.
“I was just trying to come in and fill up the strike zone as much as I could,” said Stokes, the sophomore right-hander. “I was trying to be positive. Just tell myself to fill up the strike zone, and that’s what I was trying to do.”
“What a fabulous job,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said of Stokes' performance. “A guy that probably didn’t think he was going to pitch. Three-run lead, (Short) is in the game. Next thing you know you tell him to get ready, and he comes in with the bases loaded and was fabulous."
With his team up 6-2 Brady Feigl, who got the win and is 3-0, got into a bit of a jam in the top of the eighth with one out and Tigers on second and third. That’s when Short was called in from the pen. He was able to get the Rebels out of it with only one run scoring.
After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, Short came back in to close things out in the ninth with Ole Miss leading 6-3. But that’s when he got into all kinds of trouble. He departed with bases loaded and no outs as Stokes came on to try to put out the fire Auburn had set.
Stokes walked the first Tiger and then got two strikeouts and a popup to Colby Bortles at third. And that was that.
Bianco said there was a reason Short was not his usual self.
“We’re tied 2-2 with no outs and Feigl is going back out. Errol (Robinson) hits a double and (Ryan) Olenek gets a big hit. We have enough time to get Wyatt up, and the reason we want to do that is because we’re in the middle of the lineup (for Auburn). So we get Wyatt loose and he’s ready to go in. Then we score a run, then another run, and (after four runs were scored), we said we’d run Feigl back out there.
“It kind of explains why Wyatt wasn’t as good (when he came in). Emotionally you get charged up and ready to come in. Then we say ‘You don’t have to come in right now.’ Then a couple of hitters later with second and third, he has to come in and try to get out of a jam. Then sit down and come back in and pitch the ninth. Kind of an emotional roller coaster for him.”
A two-out RBI single in the seventh by Olenek broke a tie, and his teammates got involved from that point. Olenek advanced to second on a throw as Errol Robinson, who had doubled with two outs, scored. J.B. Woodman and Bortles followed with RBI singles, scoring Olenek and Tate Blackman, who had walked. Henri Lartigue reached on an error and Woodman scored. Ole Miss led 6-2 and looked in great shape to roll to victory.
Brady Bramlett started once again and gave Ole Miss six complete innings. Feigl came on in a 2-2 game and pitched until the lead was four runs and there were Tigers on second and third with one out in the eighth.
Back in the second inning Lartigue had singled home Woodman, who had also singled to give Ole Miss a 1-0 lead. After the Rebels led 2-0 with a run in the fourth, Auburn got a rare home run off Bramlett in the sixth, a two-run that made things square at that point.
Things stayed that way until the big bottom of the seventh for Ole Miss.
“With our offense rolling, being aggressive just makes things that much better,” Olenek said.
The big hitters in the game were Woodman and Lartigue, each 3-for-4. Ole Miss had 11 hits in the contest.
Stokes said having both he and Short at the back end of the bullpen is a positive.
“Wyatt is absolutely dominant, and we kind of switched roles (tonight). We in the bullpen do what we can to help out."
Stokes is better this year, and it has shown in his performances.
“A year gives you a lot of experience. You learn so much in a year,” he said. “You play summer ball and then you come back with experience and more confidence.”
Ole Miss returns to action on Saturday with a 2 p.m. CT first pitch for game two against Auburn. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and streamed online on Watch ESPN.