David Parkinson was the beneficiary of three runs in in the first inning, one in the second and five more in a fourth inning that blew the game open.
Missouri found themselves in a peculiar pitching situation after a 40-minute rain delay on Friday night prevented its ace, Tanner Houck, from starting the game. Houck instead pitched on Saturday in a game that Ole Miss bested him 3-1. It left head coach Steve Bieser with the option of throwing his normal Saturday guy, Michael Plassmeyer, who is 4-1 with a 3.71 ERA. The other option was throwing the Tigers' usual Sunday starter Bryce Montes De Oca, and that is what Bieser went with. Montes De Oca struggled to find the strike zone early. Two early walks led to a Ryan Olenek sac fly, followed by a Nick Fortes double that plated another. The Rebels an early 3-0 lead after a wild pitch.
Fortes was 2-3 with two doubles and 3 RBIs. Ole Miss added another off of Montes De Oca, and chased him in the third inning. Plassmeyer replaced him, and the Rebels jumped all over him as well. Colby Bortles demolished a hanging breaking ball into the left field bullpen for a three-run shot.
"He threw me a curveball. He threw me a pretty good pitch. I was kind of sitting on it. I knew he wasn't going to throw me two fastballs in a row," Bortles said. "He left me a curveball up, and I put a good swing on it. Luckily it got out today in this weather."
Will Golsan and Olenek followed him with base hits, and Fortes brought them both home with his second RBI double.
Ole Miss was in full control at 9-1, and turned to David Parkinson to maintain that lead. Parkinson went 4.2 innings, allowing three runs in the fifth and pulled an out before he would have been credited with the win. It wasn't Parkinson's best start, but keep in mind that he's 24 hours removed from a stomach virus so violent that he couldn't even come to the ballpark on Saturday. Factor in an unusually cold weather day, and the junior righty battled as long as he could.
Houston Roth bridged the gap for the next three innings, before being surrendering two runs in the eighth that made the game somewhat interesting at 9-6. Will Ethridge relieved him, and recorded the last two outs that preserved a series win.
It's mid-April, but one couldn't help get the feeling that this team had its back up against the wall to a degree after being trounced by Missouri on Friday night to fall to 7-9 league play without Tiger ace Tanner Houck throwing a pitch. Two losses this weekend, and the path to an NCAA Tournament big would have been even murkier for this team with three out of its last four SEC series on the road. But this team responded. It got the best Houck on Saturday, and poured on nine runs against two of the Tigers' weekend starters to claw back to 9-9 in the conference with 12 games remaining.
The offense came to life a little, and not just in the top of the order. Fortes had a multi-hit day, as did Olenek and Golsan produced a six-hit weekend. Bortles homered in the finale, and his two out, two-RBI base hit off of Houck in Saturday's game proved to be a game winner. This team has a long way to go, but it is beginning to swing the bat better, and shore up some defensive inefficiencies.
From the sounds of the postgame interview on Sunday, the lineup with Fortes at first base and Cooper Johnson behind the plate is becoming more permanent. Fortes made a costly error on Friday, but played an error free final two games, and saw a lot of action in both. He made a few athletic stretches and catchers on throws from Kessinger and Tate Blackman, and appears to be comfortable on the bag. Where Fortes needs to improve is fielding balls. On a couple of occasions, his catching instincts kicked in meaning that he tried to block some hard ground balls with his body. That's only natural for guy in his fourth game at first base. He said he feels comfortable there, and thinks that he will get better with more reps fielding ground balls.
"The ball finds you. When you get put over there the ball is bound to come your way," Fortes said with a chuckle. "I have been doing my best to try to get in front of everything. I think with more practice I will get better. I don't think it has been bad so far."
This team is also gaining confidence. Yes, there have been some low points that were bad. But 9-9 in SEC play with so many freshmen playing is not the worst position in the world to be in, and the confidence is growing game-by-game.
"I think this is good for us. We have a lot of confidence moving forward," Bortles said. "We all know we can play at this level, and that we are one of the best teams in the conference when we play our best. This is a good confidence booster and we are looking forward to these upcoming games."
The lineup is becoming more concrete. The rotation is essentially set, and Ole Miss is swinging it better at the plate. The schedule gets tougher down the stretch, and will show just how much this team has grown up and improved.
On hitting two Missouri starters: "I thought we had a lot of good at bats today against all of their guys. I think it started with yesterday, just competitive. The first guy had a terrific arm. Yes, he helped us out with some walks, but I thought we had some terrific at bats."
On Parkinson: "It looks like a bad line. He doesn't get the win and lets up four in four and two thirds, but he was a pitch away from going five innings and only one run. He's a good competitor. He will never admit it,but I don't think he was right health wise."
On Kessinger's defense: "We just talked about it on air about how proud I am of his defense. Offensively he hasn't had the year to this point that he would want or we would expect, but he's handled it. He's gotten better and better defensively. He made two really good plays last night, and the play today was even better."
On Fortes: "We are proud of him. They're not easy plays. The triple down the line, it hit something and actually went under him, kind of a weird hop. There was a line drive hit at him and I think the catching instincts took over, trying to block it and it is hard to do that. You can't really play the infield that way."
"As long as he continues to hit and be aggressive out there, he will get better."
On catching: "It's only my fourth game. I think I'm getting there. It just comes with time. I'll pick it up as I go, but I think I made a pretty good position."
On mood after Friday loss: "We weren't down. We we were upset about the loss, but there is no point in time in which we turn on each other. We are a family. We know that bad stuff is going to happen, but if we stick together good things will happen for us."
- Dallas Woolfolk had a teder shoulder and was not available for the game
-Greer Holston will start Tuesday night against Mississippi State