The former JUCO Player of the Year torched Arkansas State (11-19) for his first two career home runs as a Rebel and produced four RBI and two runs to lead No. 10 Ole Miss (22-9) by the Indians in a 19-3 rout.
The Tupelo High School product is coming off two elbow surgeries as well as a freak elbow injury during practice for the Dairy Queen Classic. Mills was mostly used as a pinch hitter but broke out against the Indians with a form that resembled his Itawamba Community College days.
Mills connected for 20 home runs and 97 RBI as an Indian in 2005.
"The biggest thing is telling yourself and showing yourself that you can do it again," Mills said. "It has been almost two years since I have gotten to play on a team and with a team. The frustration is huge when you aren't playing, but now that I am here it is a relief. It is awesome to be on the field."
The lineup card was filled as 21 players saw action and totaled 21 hits including four home runs. Logan Power and Cody Overbeck are now tied with a team-leading seven long balls on the season after Power launched a first-inning blast.
Arkansas State starter Zack Skaggs (0-1) made his first career start and was knocked off the mound after eight first inning runs. That would be all for the freshman as Skaggs allowed eight of 12 batters to reach base.
Power and Mills both homered in an inning that saw Ole Miss bat around and give Rebel pitcher Brett Bukvich (4-1) plenty of run support. Bukvich suffered a three-run second inning but grinded through four innings of work to pick up the win.
While the early lead took pressure off the Rebels, Mills' first bomb relieved some individual pressure.
"The first home run of the year is always huge because you get the monkey off your back," Mills said. "It got the zero off the scoreboard and it feels great to hit one and know that it's gone. The rest of the game you can relax, try to drive the ball hard and do something to help the team."
Helping the team was a common theme, as the offense didn't stop after the eight-run first inning. A two-run fifth, five-run sixth and four-run eighth highlighted a night that seven Rebels recorded multiple hits, while every spot in the order recorded at least one single. Reserve catcher Alex Kliman swatted his second home run during a seven-day span to finish off the Rebel long balls in the fifth inning.
"Sometimes the big inning is helped or aided by the home run and we got a few of those tonight," head coach Mike Bianco said. "One of those nights where it was conducive; wind was blowing out, but you still have to hit them and we did. Some guys got some good swings off. It was another good job of hitting with runners in scoring position and not just getting the sac fly, but guys hitting balls in the gap, lots of extra-base hits."
Zack Cozart led Ole Miss with three hits. Jordan Henry, JoJo Tann, Power, Andrew Clark, Mills and Kliman achieved two hits.
The Ole Miss bullpen pitched a third-straight scoreless outing as Jesse Simpson, Phillip Irwin, Wade Broyles and Rory McKean all shut down the Indians. Broyles saw his first appearance of the season, giving up one hit and recording one strikeout.
"I thought (the bullpen) was much cleaner once we got to the fifth or so," Bianco said. "I thought Irwin did a great job, Broyles did a great job, McKean obviously did well, a lot of good guys obviously did well tonight."
ASU head coach Keith Kessinger closes out a rough year against his Alma Mater with the Rebels outscoring the Indians 33-4 during two games.
Ole Miss continues its homestand with a three-game set against Georgia during Red-Blue Weekend.
"A day like this shows us how good we are and how well we can play," Mills closed "We can stay hot on Friday and have a good weekend."
Rebels rout ASU Indians
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