Tate Blackman had a rough start to this baseball season at the plate. Lately - actually since late February or early March - things have gotten a whole lot better offensively for the junior co-captain.
But at no time this season has it been more dramatic for him than it was Saturday as the shadows fell on Swayze Field in the bottom of the ninth inning. That’s when Blackman walked off a 5-4 victory against Alabama for his team with a solo shot over the left field fence as Crimson Tide left-fielder Chandler Taylor watched the ball from Blackman’s bat sail over his head and into the terrace filled with thrilled Ole Miss fans.
The Rebels needed two wins this weekend just to keep pace with those trying to move to the top of the Southeastern Conference. After Friday night’s 7-2 victory and Saturday’s dramatic one-run finish, they can do one better than that as they try for the sweep. Game time for that one is 3 p.m. Sunday.
It wasn’t necessarily a thing of beauty for the Rebels as the second game in this series moved along. Ole Miss had four errors and was ultimately outhit 10-7. There were a couple of early double plays by Tide defenders that prevented any scoring, and the Rebels fell behind 3-0 through the top of the fourth.
But, as Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco would say in the postgame, this team continues to scratch and claw its way back from a rough stretch and has now won three straight games, including the non-conference extra-inning 6-5 win over Southern Mississippi in Pearl last Tuesday night.
David Parkinson gave the Rebels what they needed, and while not his best day he still got into the sixth inning. After Brady Feigl worked through five batters, Will Stokes had arguably his best performance of the year – or at least lately - facing six and allowing no runs.
Dallas Woolfolk then finished things off in usual fashion as he has become one of the country’s best closers. In this one, he actually got the win and is now 3-1 on the season, to go along with six saves so far.
This week has been just what the Rebels needed. Victories. They now stand 19-12 overall and 5-6 in the SEC.
This week has been big. Sunday could put the exclamation point on a big week for a team that needed just that.
Junior second baseman Tate Blackman
On his game-winning homer: “The inning before, (Alabama pitcher Garrett Suchy) started with a slider in. So, I was kind of looking for something middle-in. I just picked a zone. …I looked at the wind and I thought (the ball) was high enough. I just hoped the wind could carry it a little more. On the victory by the Rebels: “We didn’t play our best defensively, but we came ready to swing."
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco
On the victory: “The message you take away is that we hung in there. It wasn’t clean on the defensive side. David (Parkinson) struggled, but he hung in there. He pitches into the sixth and the game is still intact. That’s what you have to do in this league. You have to hang around, and sometimes good things happen.” On if he thought Blackman’s baseball was out of the park at the end: “With the wind blowing out, I thought he had a shot. I don’t think he hit it great, but with the wind I thought it had a shot.” On Will Stokes’ performance: “That was huge for him, and it was huge for us. He did what he’s supposed to do and what he’s done so many times. That’s why he was in the game at that point. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him.” On Dallas Woolfolk’s continuing solid performances: “It’s hard to believe there’s a better guy at the end of a game in the country than him.”