Ole Miss third baseman Colby Bortles (Photo credit: Petre Thomas)

Ole Miss Found Offense Late, McArthur's Eight Innings lead to a Win

Fayetteville, Ark ~ With a quick flip of the hips, Tim Rowe barreled up a Blaine Knight fastball and lifted it into the Fayetteville sky.

Spirit's take

The ball sailed over the right field bullpen and disappeared into the trees for a two-run home run that gave Ole Miss  2-0 lead in the second inning over Arkansas.

The Rebels clung to that two-run lead for the next six innings in a game that appeared it would be a pitcher's duel, like most series openers are in this conference. But an offensive explosion came late, and it was detonated by. a pair of two-runs shots from Colby Bortles, who crushed two fastballs over the fence. One came off of Knight, who ran out of gas as he exceeded 100 pitches in the eighth inning, and the other off of usual Sunday starter Josh Alberius, who crumbled after taking the ball from Knight.

Ole Miss ran away with the game 9-1.

Rowe continued his assault of Arkansas pitching after Bortles home run. His third hit of the night plated Ryan Olenek and gave the Rebels a comfortable 5-1 lead. He was 3-3 with three RBIs. Bortles had four RBIs on the two home runs. Wukk Golsan had a two hit game as well.

Bianco had Will Ethridge and then Dallas Woolfolk as McArthur surpassed 100 pitches in the 7th, but the three-runs of insurance in the top half of the eighth bought McArthur another inning.

Four addition runs in the ninth that came from Bortles' second home run and a two-run shot from Tate Blackman, preserved a heavily taxed Dallas Woolfolk, and allowed Ethridge to extinguish Arkansas with three more outs in the ninth. 

Ole Miss hit 4 two-run home runs in the game. It is the second time in two weeks that the team has left the yard four times in a game.

 But despite pouring on offense late, Ole Miss won because of its pitching, a similar script that its 25 other wins followed this season. James McArthur tossed an eight inning gem. He surrendered just one hit, a solo shot to right field that caromed off the scoreboard. Jared Gates crushed a slider that McArthur said was one of his best pitches of the night..

It was his lone mistake in an otherwise flawless outing that provided further evidence that this team's path to earning wins is on the back of its pitching staff. Eight innings was a career high for McArthur, whose fastball and slider were strong. He rode those two pitches and an improved curveball for much of his 114 pitch outing that he called the best of his season.

"I think it was just because of the pitches I made, not necessarily the outcome," McArthur said. "A lot of good breaking, which is something I have been working on."

Mike Bianco agreed.

"He was just terrific. It is hard to be critical of that, pitching against one of the best offenses in the country," Bianco said. "Going eight innings, giving up one run, one hit and I thought he was terrific. He really didn't have but one inning where he was in any kind of trouble."

McArthur's counterpart was good, too. Knight retired 14 of his next 15 hitters after Rowe's damage. He was in the mid 90's with his fastball, and lasted 7.1 innings.

"I think I was able to located some fastballs and breaking balls in some really good spots," McArthur said. "They are a really aggressive team so they were going for it, but I was fortunate enough to get some fly outs and ground balls."

Knight turned in his third 10-strikeout game of  But Ole Miss' sophomore righty was just a little better. He stifled one of the best offenses in the conference.

Each pitcher had everything under control until the eighth. McArthur recorded a 1-2-3 inning, Knight was shelled for three runs in the bottom half.

Golsan reached, Bortles homered and Olenek followed that with a double into the left field corner that ousted Knight from the game.

Ole Miss made Knight work early in the game. His pitch count soared above 50 early on, and it led to his velocity dropping later, which aided in the Rebels' late scoring barrage.

Blaine's successor was the victim of two more home runs and a four-run onslaught that put the game well out of reach.

"This was one of our most complete games of the year against a really good team and a really good pitcher," Bianco said. "I thought we played well in all three phases."

This is was a big win for a team that has yet to win a road series in two tries  his season, and has a daunting schedule ahead. It's important because it adds a win over a 14th-ranked team to a resumé that needed spice. It was big because Ole Miss presumably has the upper hand on the mound in the final two games that will be played in a double header on Friday due to weather. Ryan Rolison and David Parkinson is a potent one-two punch in and of itself, and becomes even more lethal with a 1-0 series lead secured. 

"It is a little confidence booster," Bortles said. "But we are going to come out tomorrow and have a lot of energy and try to win two games tomorrow. it is a big confidence booster, but we are not going to look ahead and just get after it."

First pitch in the first game on Friday is at noon. The third and final game will follow 30 minutes after.


Colby Bortles

On this team turning the corner: "I think it is a testament to the hard work we put in every day. We are going to get it. We are going to get it. We said that the whole time after we got swept by state. Keep working hard and we are going to push through this and we did."

On Blaine Knight: "He was throwing really well. He was throwing hard and mixing his pitches, throwing a good slider,  good change up. I think later in the game his velo went down a little bit and we started getting better swings off against him."

On McArthur: "You don't do much out there when a guy throws a one hitter. It was awesome for him. He is a great competitor and I love when he is on the mound. No one else in the country gives their team a better chance to win." 

Mike Bianco:

On Rowe's early home run: "To hit the home run to take the lead, we haven't had a lead early on a Friday night in a long time. That was nice to have, and obviously the way James was pitching that made it even better. Rowe had a big night. The third hit that got us to five, allowed Dallas not to pitch tonight."

On Blaine Knight: "Knight is so good, and we knew that going in. I thought we made him work with some walks and ran some counts early. I thought we had a good night and he struck out ten. That shows you how good he is."

On taking a step forward as a team: "We played well. We played well in all three phases: defensively, offensive and on the mound."

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