Pitching To Win

PEARL - A reversal of pitching roles lifted Ole Miss to victory against Mississippi State 5-3 Tuesday night. David Goforth started and got the win. Matt Tracy, the last of four UM pitchers, closed it out and got the save.

Tracy relieved Brett Huber in the bottom of the ninth after Huber allowed Jet Butler to reach on a hit by pitch. The junior left-hander got Trey Johnson to strikeout swinging on a 3-2 count, and followed that up with strikeouts looking by Wes Thigpen and Nick Vickerson.

"It was fun to come in in the ninth. I don't do that too often," said Tracy, who started on Sundays against Louisville and Kentucky this season. "I was just able to make pitches. I kept my fastball down. My changeup was good tonight, and I could keep it down too. That was the main thing, just keeping the ball down and throwing strikes. You do that and you'll get outs."

Goforth, normally a closer or late reliever, had his longest outing to date, throwing 70 pitches and going 5.2 innings, allowing two runs on three hits with two walks and one strikeout.

"It was a lot better than I expected, to be honest with you," said Goforth, candidly. "I was able to get a lot of first and second pitch outs, which helped me go deeper into the game. I think it went well."

Goforth was able to mix up his pitches, which has been challenging as he becomes a more complete pitcher at the collegiate level.

"I had command with all three pitches," he said. "I was even able to locate with the changeup. I left a few of them up, but for the most part I was able to locate with the changeup. And the slider was really good tonight. I threw the changeup maybe seven or eight pitches. I mixed it up a good bit tonight, and that's what you have to do. You can't just have one or two pitches. You have to mix it up. I definitely was able to do that tonight."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said tonight didn't clear anything up for him as far as a Sunday starter against Tennessee this weekend.

"We'll just enjoy this one. We'll keep the TBA there for a while," he said after his team improved to 20-6 on the season.

"He was terrific," Bianco said of Goforth. "But we thought he would be. There is no doubt about his talent and what kind of competitor he is. Sometimes you have some misfortune and give up some hard hits balls. Then you start to think about it a little bit. He needed an outing like tonight. It worked perfectly."

Eric Callender relieved Goforth and pitched 1.1 innings with a run on three hits along with two strikeouts.

Brett Huber was next in, entering with Ole Miss up 5-2, after leadoff batter Nick Vickerson singled to start the bottom of the eighth. Huber walked Luke Adkins on four straight pitches but got Connor Powers, who had hit a two-run homer for MSU in the sixth, to strike out on a 3-2 count.

After Russ Sneed walked to load the bases, Huber got a ground out, which scored a run, and then a strikeout by Cody Freeman to end it, with UM still leading by two runs.

Huber went back out to start the ninth and hit leadoff batter Jet Butler. That's when Tracy came in and got three straight Ks to end it.

"Huber wasn't 100 percent," Bianco said. "He pitched twice on the weekend and was a little stiff. He wasn't real sharp in that inning. But to strikeout Powers in that situation I thought was the whole key to the game. He just kept battling and won that battle to get out of the inning. I shouldn't have run him out there in the ninth."

Mississippi State (14-11) didn't get a hit off Goforth until a two-out triple by Connor Powers in the bottom of the fourth. Ole Miss outhit the Bulldogs 11-6. The Rebels were errorless and MSU had four miscues in the contest.

The Rebels scored three runs in the top of the second inning. Taylor Hightower singled up the middle to score Alex Yarbrough who had walked. Kevin Mort singled and advanced to second on a throw as David Philips, who had singled, scored. Tim Ferguson flew out to center field to get Hightower home.

The Rebels added a run in the top of the fifth. Ferguson doubled down the third base line, and moved to third on a balk. He came home on a fly ball to center field by Matt Smith and it was 4-0 Ole Miss.

State closed the gap on the Powers two-out, two-run blast over the center field wall that chased Goforth. That's when Callender came in got Sneed to strike out.

Ole Miss added a run in top of the seventh on an error by MSU second baseman Sam Frost, who let a ball hit by Yarbrough go between his legs, scoring Smith who had walked and had moved to second on a Zach Miller single.

That made it 5-2 Rebs and set up the dramatics the rest of the way.

Ole Miss hosts Tennessee three games this weekend.

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