Tate Blackman turned on a Jared Poche fastball on the inner half and watched it sail 402 feet into to the Baton Rouge night, and out of Alex Box Stadium over the left field seats. He admired his work for a moment, and then trotted around the base path. It was a towering shot and his second of the night that helped lift Ole Miss to a series tying 4-1 win over the Tigers after suffering a blistering 15-2 defeat on Thursday.
“That was probably everything I had in my body,” Blackman said. “I didn’t miss that at all. It was probably one of my best swings i’ve taken since i’ve been here.”
The Rebels squared up Jared Poche for four home runs on the evening. The name of Poche’s game is to fill up the strike zone and induce ground balls. Unfortunately for him, Ole Miss lifted balls into the air early and often. Blackman’s first home run came just five pitches into the game when he took a 3-1 offering from Poche and deposited into bleachers in left field to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead and something positive to build on for the first time all weekend. It spotted David Parkinson a 1-0 lead before he tossed a pitch.
“Tate doing that in the first inning, that definitely gives me some leeway, and gives the team some leeway to go out relaxed,” Parkinson said. “Not too relaxed, but confident and play baseball like we should.”
LSU tied it in the third with the help of a couple of hits, but Ole Miss soon took it back and didnt let it go for the
Colby Bortles and Nick Fortes both took Poche deep in the fourth to reclaim a 3-1 cushion. Fortes’ shot was the deepest of the night as it sailed well out of the stadium and left his teammates in awe climbing over the edge of the dugout to get a view.
It was a rather uncharacteristic outburst of power for a team that came into the game with just 24 home runs, good for 11th in the SEC. Ole Miss had just one multi-home run game heading into the year, but powered its way to this win with four mammoth shots off Poche.
Parkinson made good of the explosion of power and worked 6.1 innings of one-run baseball while scattering six hits. He picked up his fifth win of the season, and battled through some difficult situations in the early innings to give Ole Miss a quality start it needed to maintain a lead. He worked his slider on both sides of the plate, as well as his fastball.
“Coach B were working on my slider for the last couple of days. It hadn’t really been what it should be,” Parkinson said. “Last year at the beginning of the year my slider was probably my best pitch, and I haven’t had that. We’ve been working on it the past few days and it was definitely my go-to pitch today.”
Poche earned a career high nine strikeouts, and yielded just five hits, but Ole Miss punished him to the fullest extent on four swings when he decided to leave fastballs up. The team has on his fastball all night. Blackman said after the game the completely disregarded Poche's curveball because he knew a fastball was coming later in the count.
This was a big moment for a team that needed to grow up a little. Will Ethridge relieved Parkinson in the 7th, inheriting two base runners with one out He stared down Michael Papierski and Antoine Duplantis (who was 4-4 the night before) and induced two slippery ground balls that fellow freshman Cole Zabowsk - who came off the bench in that inning cold - fielded and disposed of to stand two runners. Ryan Olenek made a diving catch in the ninth before crashing into the wall that saved a leadoff extra-base hit from Zach Watson in the 9th that would’ve opened up the door for LSU.
“True freshman comes into this environment with the game on the line and makes some pitches to get off the field,” Mike Bianco said. “Tying run was at the plate, and to get a couple of outs was huge. I’m sure it was the biggest moment of his young baseball life.”
Ole Miss overcame three errors, and a rowdy crowd at one of college baseball’s finest venues. It tossed away an embarrassing defeat in game one to give itself a puncher’s chance at taking it first series in Baton Rouge since 1982.
“If you can win in Alex Box Stadium you can win anywhere,” Blackman said. “That’s what it shows the young guys. This is probably the biggest stadium we will play in besides Swayze, Minute Maid or T.D. Ameritrade. Winning here is and a win here tomorrow would be even bigger.”
on David Parkinson: "
on home runs: "The wind was blowing out, but even without the wind I'm not sure those balls don't get out. When you're swing with a lot of confidence like those guys at the top are you get better swings off. You pull the ball down the line more."
On Colby Bortles defense: "He's always been good, and we've always said for a big guy he can really defend. The Truth is for any sized guy he can really defend. He made some great plays last night and tonight too."
On putting last night behind them: "Last night was a miserable night for us. Not only to lose, but to lose in the fashion that we did. To be able to bounce back says a lot about this young team."