One of the things this Ole Miss baseball team has left to show is how it will handle a loss. Six wins in we’ve already seen them bounce back from in-game deficits. Saturday was another example with an 8-4 victory against UNC-Wilmington after trailing 4-3 after the top of the eighth inning.
The Rebels did what they’ve done all year when they get behind. They made up the deficit in a hurry. This time it was five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Stranded runners were a problem Saturday, but it turned out not to be a disaster. One of the reasons for the win was the offensive resurgence of the captains – Colby Bortles and Tate Blackman. Each had three hits on the day. Both were confident their hitting would come around. Both can now move on and not have to hear from media and others “What’s up with your hitting, or the lack thereof?” Today was a positive for Blackman and Bortles.
True freshman Cole Zabowski had four hits and continues to prove he’s a valuable weapon in this young lineup. Add another true freshman to your list of “new names” to remember. This time it was Bryan Seamster, who had seen spot play so far, coming through with a huge two-run home run in that important bottom of the eighth.
Starting pitcher James McArthur was equally important on this day. He kept the Rebels in it through six innings. But when he gave up a double to lead off the seventh, true freshman Greer Holston came in to relieve him. In that same inning, true freshman Ryan Rollison came in for Holston. Two Wills - Stokes and Ethridge (another true freshman) - finished off the Seahawks in the eighth and ninth.
Back to McArthur. The big Rebel righty, a sophomore with much experience, had a no-hitter going until a two-out UNC-W single in the top of the sixth. The Rebels had left quite a few stranded and could have been more in control than their 1-0 lead by then. At the end of the day, Ole Miss left 13 runners aboard. Sometimes that will cost a team. Today, thanks to other moving parts taking care of business, it did not.
All in all another sold win and it sets up for the second straight weekend a chance for the Rebels to sweep. Game time Sunday is Noon.
Sophomore RHP James McArthur
On his performance in the second weekend of the regular season: "I just got in the zone and attacked them. I realized (the no-hitter going) in the sixth, but that came to an end pretty quickly. I was trying not to think about it."
Freshman hitter Bryan Seamster
On his two-run home run in the eighth that was important to the Rebels’ victory: “I was trying to get a base hit. Hard on the ground, through a gap. I saw the pitch and I didn’t know it was out of here. I knew I hit it well. It was a mistake in the middle of the plate.”
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco
On James McArthur after the walk in the third inning: "That happens to most big guys, guys that are long-limbed. Once they really start to find their rhythm they are tough. That's what you saw today. He was good today as I've ever seen him." On his team’s offensive efficiency: "Their guy was really good, and I think he got a little tired. (UNC-W Josh) Roberson was tough, and we had some good swings, but he was throwing the ball into the mid 90s, and there were breaking balls and changeups. He was filling up the strike zone. Last year he didn't throw a lot of strikes, but he has corrected that. Terrific game. He's going to win a lot of games. We needed everything out of McArthur today. Both bullpens kind of screwed it up a little bit." On Cole Zabowski: "Just a great day. He had four hits and played the field really well. He's going to be a difference-maker at first base. Against some good pitching he had a good day swinging it." On Will Stokes' outing: "He got up last night and sometimes you wonder when they get up. It's probably more just baseball. The first pitch is an out, and you think they might take, and we throw a fastball for a hit, and then we fall behind in the count. They get up the guy we didn't want up. Their best guy who can really hit. It was the wrong guy and a missed pitch.” On Bryan Seamster's at-bat: "We were just running him to extend the lead, but we know through the last six months he can make contact. You don't think home run necessarily, but you know you can get a good at-bat. He got the barrel out."
OXFORD, Miss. – (Ole Miss SID) After an incredible performance from its starting pitcher, the No. 8 Ole Miss baseball team saw its lead disappear in the top of the eighth but rallied in the bottom half of the frame to knock off No. 23 UNCW 8-4 Saturday afternoon at Swayze Field. A three-run homer gave the Seahawks (3-2) a 4-3 lead, but the Rebels (6-0) responded with five runs to clinch the series and remain unbeaten in 2017.
Ole Miss starting pitcher James McArthur turned in an outing that would’ve earned him a win on most days, taking a no-hit bid into the sixth inning. The sophomore allowed only one run on two hits and a walk, while striking out a career-high 11 over 6.0 innings of work.
The Rebels tallied 15 hits throughout the day, and freshman Cole Zabowski led the way with a career-high four. Team captains Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles found their swings as the duo combined for six hits. Blackman went 3-for-5 with one run and one RBI. Bortles followed with a 3-for-5 day as well, adding two doubles, two runs and two RBI. Coming off the bench, freshman Bryan Seamster delivered perhaps the biggest hit of the day with the two-run homer in the eighth that put Ole Miss ahead for good. The towering shot to right field was the first career home run for the Roanoke, Texas native.
Designated hitter Nick Feight kept up his solid series for UNCW, going 2-for-4 with two runs and a three-run homer. Starter Josh Roberson worked out of jams, giving up only two runs on seven hits and recording eight strikeouts. The Ole Miss bats got hot against reliever Austin Magestro (0-1), chalking up five runs on six hits in his 1.1 innings of action.
Ole Miss threatened first by loading the bases in the bottom of the third; however, the Seahawks got out of the inning thanks to a stellar defensive play. With three Rebels on base, Will Golsan ripped a liner down the line, but it was snagged by the UNCW third baseman, who dove at the bag to catch the runner off and complete the double play.
After squandering an opportunity in the third, the Rebels bounced back by putting a run up in the fourth thanks to three of their freshmen. Thomas Dillard reached base for the second time in the contest, walking on five pitches before advancing to second on a wild pitch. Zabowski singled to put runners on the corners with one out, and Cooper Johnson hit a flyball to left that was deep enough to plate Dillard. The sequence gave Ole Miss a 1-0 lead through four.
McArthur was in cruise control from the start, retiring 17 of the first 18 hitters he faced. The tall right-hander went 5.2 innings before UNCW earned an infield single in the sixth. With two outs, Blackman dove to his left deep in the hole, but he couldn’t complete the web gem as the Seahawk reached base safely. However, McArthur got back to business by striking out the next hitter to end the inning and keep Ole Miss in front.
Playing small ball, the Rebels doubled their lead with another run in the sixth. Back-to-back base hits through the left side started the frame before Johnson’s sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position. Two batters later, Ryan Olenek hit a fly to right, and Bortles tested the outfielder’s arm by tagging at third. The throw went up the line, allowing the senior to score and make it a 2-0 game.
The Seahawks hit a double to start the seventh, ending McArthur’s fantastic day. A balk and a single put UNCW on the board, but Ole Miss answered right back with a run in the bottom half. Following a pitching change, Bortles smacked the first pitch he saw into left field for an RBI double that kept Ole Miss ahead by two, 3-1.
In the top of the eighth, the game flipped on its head when UNCW took the lead with a three-run homer by Feight. However, despite the Seahawks taking their first lead of the series, the Rebels countered with a huge inning of their own. The scoring frenzy began when Blackman singled to center to score fellow middle infielder Grae Kessinger, tying the game at four. Following a groundout, the go-ahead run stood 90 feet away with two outs in the inning and Seamster at the plate. After entering the game as a pinch runner, the freshman stayed in the contest as the Rebels’ designated hitter. The decision by head coach Mike Bianco paid off, as Seamster crushed a 3-2 pitch to deep right field that gave Ole Miss the lead once again, 6-4. Back-to-back doubles by Kyle Watson and Bortles plated another run, and Zabowski tallied his fourth hit of the game with a RBI single up the middle to finish a wild inning.
Freshman Will Etheridge struck out two in the ninth on his way to retiring the side, securing the game as well as the series for Ole Miss.
The Rebels will go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon (Feb. 26) as Brady Feigl faces off against UNCW’s Logan Beehler. The action begins at 12 p.m. from Swayze Field. Those who can’t make it to Oxford can watch the game on SECN+ or listen on the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network