The Tigers came back to close the gap in a big way as the game progressed and even had the tying run at the plate in the top of the ninth as the Rebels held on for a 12-9 victory.
"What a change from the first five games," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco of the 14 hits for the Rebels and 16 hits for the Tigers.
As for his team, Bianco said there was a feeling the Rebels' hitting was coming around.
"You could see we were swinging it better on Sunday," he said of the Rebels' 14 hits in the 4-1 win over Evansville. "I felt like we had a chance to get some extra base hits today. The wind helped some, but a lot of those balls were well hit."
After spotting the Tigers three runs in the top of the first, the Rebels doubled the U of M output in the bottom of the first with six runs. Fuller Smith homered over the right field wall with a shot that got out of the ballpark in a hurry, scoring Zack Cozart who had bunted safely with one out. Andrew Clark reached on an error on the Memphis shortstop. C.J. Ketchum singled, then Logan Power was hit by a pitch. Up came Cody Overback who sent one out of the park over the left center wall, a grand slam that gave Ole Miss the three-run lead.
After the Tigers didn't get any runs in the top of the second, the Rebels added five of their own in the bottom of the second for an 11-3 lead after two complete. Smith, who had singled and moved to second on a Clark single, scored on an RBI single by Ketchum. Power then sent one out of the yard and almost to the scoreboard in left center, a blast which also scored Clark and Ketchum.
"This was the first day the wind was really blowing out," Power said. "The bats seemed to warm up as the weather has warmed up."
Later in the second inning, after Memphis replaced starter Scott McGregor with reliever Dusty Davis, Overbeck welcomed him to the game with another home run to left to give Ole Miss the 11-3 advantage.
"We'd talked about breaking out and hitting," said Overbeck, 2-for-4 with 5 RBI and 2 runs scored. "At that point, I knew I'd get fast balls, and that's what they threw me."
Memphis added a run in the third and another in the fourth. Rebel starter Nathan Baker, the true frosh LHP, gave way to Phillip Irwin to begin the sixth inning. The redshirt freshman RHP pitched through two outs in the seventh. But after walking a batter and giving up a single, two Tigers came home to score on a two-out RBI single by Joey Lieberman and an RBI double by Michael Murray, who ended the day 4-for-5 with 2 RBI.
Irwin, in his first-ever appearance as a Rebel and having undergone Tommy John surgery and rehab for more than a year, said it was good to be pitching in a game again.
"I went in and tried to throw strikes and do what I'm supposed to do," said Irwin, who went one and two/thirds innings in relief of Baker, allowing two earned runs on three hits with with two strikeouts and a walk. "I felt no pain, and it was good to get out there and get some confidence back."
Jesse Simpson then came in and recorded the third out of the seventh as Tiger Ben Grisham struck out.
Ole Miss got one run back in the bottom of the seventh as Justin Henry drove in brother Jordan Henry who had reached on a single and moved to third on a Kyle Mills base hit.
Memphis, down 12-7, made things very interesting in the top of the eighth, scoring two runs to cut the UM lead to 12-9 and chasing Simpson. Craig Rodriguez came in with one out and a Tiger on first and got Bill Moss to hit into a double play to end any more scoring for the visitors in the inning.
In the top of the ninth with two runners on base and two outs, Scott Bittle came in to close it out for the Rebels and got Kyle Norrid, who had a solo home run in the fourth, to pop up to second baseman Justin Henry to end it.
Bianco said he was pleased with all the pitchers who threw for the Rebels.
"All of them showed some good things today," he said. "I was really proud of Nathan Baker for fighting through the first inning and then coming back and pitching four more innings. That says a lot about him. He really competed and a lot of guys might have wanted out of that situation.
"I blame myself for Phillip Irwin probably staying out there a little too long (for his first outing)," Bianco continued. "He kind of ran out of gas. But Jesse Simpson and Craig Rodriguez and Scott Bittle all pitched out of jams and did some good things."
Rebel starter Baker, who gave up four earned runs on nine hits with a strikeout and two walks, said he was pleased to have gotten things back together after the rough first inning.
"I guess I was a little nervous," Baker said. "It's Memphis and I know a bunch of guys out there. Not sure what happened in the first inning. Things just weren't working. I'm glad I had pitched in relief (last Saturday). That helped me settle down some. And the runs we scored also helped as well."
Simpson went two/thirds of an inning, allowing two runs on two hits with a walk and a strikeout. Rodriguez went an inning and a third with no runs on two hits with no walks or strikeouts. Bittle came in and faced just one batter - Norrid - who popped up to Justin Henry to end it.
Bianco and the players agreed that Memphis was impressive for a season opener, especially the way the Tigers came back from being down so far so early.
"It's a very good Memphis team," Bianco said. "This is a senior-laden and veteran team. They'll have a very good year."
The Rebels, now 5-1 on the season and ranked 11th nationally, host Wright State for three games this weekend.
Rebs outscore Memphis 12-9
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