Tate Blackman (Associated Press)

The Rebels, again, struggled to muster offense, falling

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Ole Miss fell to 14-7 on the year with a 2-1 loss at Memphis Tuesday night. Analysis, quotes, recap and box score.

SPIRIT'S TAKE

Ole Miss was the victim of a gem from Memphis midweek starter Jonathan Bowlan on Tuesday night. The sophomore right-hander came into the game with a 2-2 record and a 6.10 ERA, and was shelled my Middle Tennessee State in his only other start, but brought his best stuff to AutoZone Park for this one.

Bowlan shut the Rebels out for eight innings and yielded just three hits. He sat in the mid 90s with his fastball and used a sharp breaking ball and a change up to keep Ole Miss off balance for the majority of the night. Bianco said they were a little surprised at Bowlan’s velocity which remained steady for the entirety of the game. He blew 95 by Colby Bortles in the 7th inning, and only allowed one runner in scoring position for the first eight innings of the game. Ole Miss squared up a couple of balls off Bowlan, but they either were right at defenders or were swallowed by the large ballpark.

Bowlan’s opposition on the mound was Ole Miss senior right-hander Sean Johnson who pitched well given some of the adversity he has been through with his elbow and his hand over the last 18 months. Johnson allowed a run on a pair of hits in 4.1 innings of action and was given a quick hook in the fourth after just 48 pitches. 

Mike Bianco (Josh McCoy)

Memphis tried to let Bowlan go the distance and finish off his gem with a complete game shutout, but he plunke Tate Blackman in the ninth, and then was left in two batters two long after that as Bortles roped a double into the left field corner  that tied the game after Blackman ran through a stop sign on his way home. It was the Rebels’ fourth hit of the night and good enough to send the game to extra innings.  

Memphis won it in the 11th when it strung three hits together off of Andy Pagnozzi, the last of which was a Trent Turner base hit up the middle that ended the game. 

The offense has come and gone with Ole Miss this year, and it disappeared again against an average pitcher on Tuesday night. Too Bowlan’s credit, he filled up the zone and his velocity was good. But getting swept by Memphis on the season leaves a bad taste in the mouth, especially in that fashion.

The majority of the Rebels’ four hits off Bowlan came with two outs and no one on base. Chase Cockrell continued to hit the ball well with a double in the 10th inning, and nearly hit a home run earlier in the game, but the ball died in the deepest part of the park. Tate Blackman said after the game that timely hitting is what won it for Memphis, and it’s where Ole Miss was lacking. It had a chance in the 10th after Cockrell’s two-out double. But a sharp line drive off the bat of Kyle Watson landed directly into the mitt of the Memphis first baseman.

All in all, it was perfect storm: A team struggling to hit the ball ran into a pitcher having the night of his life. It’ll end up being a harmless loss for Ole Miss in a large ballpark on a tough night to hit with the wind swirling, but a frustrating one nonetheless.

QUOTABLE

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco

On Jonathan Bowlan: “Certainly not what we expected and I mean this as a compliment, but that had to be the best night that he has ever had and  and he was as good as we have seen, throwing the ball in the mid 90s with a breaking ball. It was really amazing. We didn’t expect that.” On Sean Johnson: “I thought he was terrific and proud of him with everything he has been through. We needed that tonight.” On Chase Cockrell hitting the ball well: “He’s really swung it. Those some of the hardest hit balls you’ll ever see. It is a shame those didn’t get out of the yard, either one of them.”

Ole Miss second baseman Tate Blackman

On Bowlan: “He came out with his best stuff. His velo was up. His slider was sharp, change up kept us off balance. He did everything he had to do to pitch a great game. Hats off to him. He did everything he had to do to beat us.”

RECAP

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – (Ole Miss SID) Colby Bortles produced a game-tying double in the top of the ninth to force extra innings, but timely hits in the 11th lifted Memphis to a 2-1 victory over No. 11 Ole Miss Tuesday night at AutoZone Park. The Rebels (14-7) threatened with runners on late in the game, but it was the Tigers (13-7) who claimed the win in walk-off fashion.

Bortles finished the night going 2-for-4 for another multi-hit game. Tate Blackman, Chase Cockrell and Will Golsan also added hits for the Rebels.

Making his first start of the season, Sean Johnson was efficient in a limited outing. The redshirt-senior allowed only one run on two hits and one walk over 4.0 innings. Sophomore Connor Green was effective out of the bullpen, tossing a season-high 2.2 innings and not giving up a run.

Memphis got four of its nine hits from center fielder Tyler Webb, while first baseman Trent Turner knocked in both of the team’s runs. Starting pitcher Jonathan Bowlan went 8.1 innings before allowing the tying run in the ninth, and Hunter Smith (1-0) got the win in relief.

Johnson made quick work of the Tigers through the first three innings, allowing only one hit and one walk while keeping the home team off the scoreboard. However, Bowlan forced groundball after groundball from Ole Miss hitters to continue the pitcher’s duel.

Josh McCoy

The Tigers broke through in the bottom of the fourth as a leadoff double plus a wild ball four put runners on the corners with one out. During the next at-bat, Johnson got the grounder he needed, but it wasn’t enough for a double play. The RBI groundout put Memphis ahead 1-0 after four completed frames.

In the top of the sixth, Memphis planned to increase its advantage with back-to-back base hits to start the inning. The spark forced head coach Mike Bianco to call on Green out of the bullpen, and the sophomore got the job done. First, Green issued a groundball double play before getting another Tiger to pop up in foul territory, ending the threat without Memphis adding any runs.

The game remained at 1-0 until Bortles provided the game-tying double with one out in the top of the ninth. Blackman started the inning, reaching base after being hit by a pitch. Two batters later, his fellow captain ripped a double down the line in left field. Blackman rolled all the way around the bases before sliding into home to tie the contest, 1-1. Ole Miss continued the inning by putting runners on first and second, trying to grab the lead. However, Golsan’s liner was snagged by a diving second baseman, leading to a double play. After Ole Miss was inches away from taking control of the game, Ryan Rolison came back out to pitch the ninth inning and retired the side to force extra innings.

In the 10th, Cockrell nearly homered for the second time on the night. The first time, he hit one to the warning track in the left-center gap that was caught. This time, the first baseman belted a ball that ricocheted off the wall for a double. Once again, Memphis got out of the inning.

The Tigers put two runners on with one out in the 11th, setting the stage for Turner. The first baseman found a hole up the middle past the outstretched Blackman, bringing the runner from second across the plate and ending the game.

Ole Miss remains on the road, traveling further north to battle Kentucky in the first road conference series of the season. The three-game set begins Thursday night (March 23) at 6 p.m. on SEC Network. Game two of the series will take place at 5:30 p.m. Friday evening (March 24) before the two teams wrap up the weekend Saturday morning (March 25) at 11 a.m. on SEC Network.

BOX SCORE

Ole Miss - Memphis Box Score


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