James McArthur (Petre Thomas)

Ole Miss Beats Alabama 7-2 on Friday Night

Ole Miss was able to exorcise its demons against left-handed pitching, and touched up Alabama southpaw Dylan Duarte for five runs on six hits in its 7-2 series-opening victory over the Crimson Tide on Friday night. 

Spirit's Take:

Coming into the night, the Rebels were hitting just .183 against left-handers, but really got to a tricky Duarte the second time through the order. 

The scoring for Ole Miss began in the fourth inning. Prior to that James McArthur got off to a sluggish started and gift-wrapped Alabama a 1-0 lead due to two walks and a couple of wild pitches in the first inning. But Ole Miss took control in the fourth after three doubles that came after a Will Golsan leadoff base hit. Bortles doubled him home to tie the game, and Olenek immediately matched that with a double of his own that gave Ole Miss a 2-1 lead.

Olenek had a pair of hits on the night and is arguably the hottest hitter in the Ole Miss lineup. He's 9 for his last 18 and has his batting average is now flirting with .300 as he currently sits at .289. Olenek has hit well since he was slotted down in the order a bit and has thrived in the clean-up role, which has to be a welcomed site to Mike Bianco's eyes as his lineup has struggled to score runs over the last month. Olenek has undoubtedly served as a proverbial spark in the middle of the order. 

Thomas Dillard doubled Olenek home a couple of batters later and scored thanks to a couple of balls that Duarte spiked in the dirt. He had two hits on the night, the second came on an RBI single in the eighth inning. He was one of three Rebels with multiple hits as Tim Rowe also had a pair of hits. Ole Miss faired much better the second time through the lineup against the crafty lefty whose fastball never exceeded 85 mph and flipped his breaking ball and change up in the low 70s. For as many power arms as you see in this league, Duarte can pose as a frustrating change of pace, but Ole Miss remained patient at the plate and chased him to begin the sixth after Nick Fortes swatted a fastball well over the left field fence. A Rowe solo shot two batters later extended the Rebel lead to 6-1.

After McArthur's shaky start in which 10 of his first 13 pitches were outside the strike zone, he buckled down and quietly turned in seven innings of one-run baseball while yielding just two hits. He was struggling to find his fastball command early on, and it produced three walks in the first two innings. But he certainly found it and struck out seven hitters while not allowing a hit in the final five innings he pitched. He said it was a product of over throwing and then under throwing, but then found a balance and turned in a gem of an outing.

Alabama is a struggling ball club, but Ole Miss continues to take steps in the right direction at the plate. All six hits that produced runs on the night came in hitters counts, two of them came in three ball counts.  Fortes' bomb in the sixth has seemingly made the situation behind the plate more interesting. If the sophomore can provide more at the plate for a team that will take offense any way that it can get it, it's going to be hard for Bianco to not give Fortes' bat the nod over Cooper Johnson's defense. 

OIe Miss goes for the series win tomorrow at 3 p.m. David Parkinson will be on the hill for the Rebels. 


Mike Bianco

On getting to Alabama starter Dylan Duarte the second time around: "It was kind of frustrating. We weren't sticking to the approach and the plan and rolling over some balls. He was maybe a little softer than we thought with the fastball. But then what an adjustment our guys made the second time through as you said."

On having to adjust to a soft-throwing lefty: "Those guys tend to give a lot of people trouble. That's why he pitches on Friday night, because he's good. A lot people try to do what he does, but obviously he is really good at it. He has great command, stays down in the zone, pitches away and nips at the plate on the outside."

On Olenek in the clean up role: "It's worked for a couple of games, and you're right he has swung it well. He joked down in Pearl and said 'Man, that's my favorite spot.' I don't know if he was joking or not, but I think he's got five hits in two games there so we will put him there tomorrow."

On McArthur overcoming a sluggish start: "Those big guys, sometimes that happens with the limbs and everything. It is just hard to get them going, but once you get them going it is tough to stop them. He really struggled, especially in the first inning with command and the fastball was all over the place and he was very erratic. But he was able to maintain, get a double play ball, get a strike out and get off of the field. He was better in the second, but still not super sharp. You could tell once he got through the third and started to get that rhythm back."

On Nick Fortes: "I think he is just giving us great at bats. Even tonight with just the one hit, the homer, if you look at it the way we look at it he has three QABs (quality at bats) and gets a runner to third twice with less than two outs. He gets an HBP and of course a home run and then caught terrific."

Ryan Olenek

On Duarte: "He was coming at us with the same pitch. His fastball was 83-85 and then was throwing what looked like a slower fastball that wasn't cutting, and was like 80-82. So we were just really working on staying back. Coach B pulled all the hitters in the dugout and said to try to foul the ball over the first base dugout because when you're trying to stay that late, you are still out in front on a guy like that. We were really just trying to stay late and work flat."

On two good offensive performances in a row: "We've always been confident because we know what we are capable of doing. It is great to win. We knew that our hard work was going to pay off eventually. Stuff was going fall our way eventually. We just had to stick with it."

On hitting clean up: "It's weird. I never really figured myself as a clean up or a power hitter, but for some reason I love hitting in that spot. I just feel really relaxed and confident. I feel really balanced."

James McArthur

On slow start: "I was kind of pulling some pitches, and over throwing and even maybe under throwing after that. I was able to go back out there and try to throw harder than I normally do and was able to find the zone."

On finding fastball command: "I throw a lot of fastballs and was able to pound a few at the start and caught my rhythm and kept going a bit."

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