Surprising Stumble

Tennessee was timely. Ole Miss not. The Volunteers claimed the weekend series with a 10-6 win Sunday, scoring seven runs in the last three innings.

The visiting Vols, much like they had done in Saturday's 5-2 win, had an answer every time the Rebels made a run at them.

A lot like Saturday, Ole Miss had opportunities but either ran themselves out of situations or failed to execute to get runners home.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said any explanation of the game is simple.

"We didn't play as well as Tennessee," he said after his 11th-ranked Rebels fell to 21-8 overall and down into the mix of things in the Southeastern Conference at only 5-4. "You can look at it and cut it up however you want. The bottom line is they just played better than we did. A team that was struggling coming in obviously didn't struggle here, especially the last two days. They beat us in all phases."

Sundays continue to be a problem for this year's team. They've now lost five series finales in a row after beating Louisiana-Monroe and Oakland on the last day of those two series. Tulane, Louisville, Kentucky, Florida, and Tennessee (15-14, 2-7) all have taken advantage of poor performances by the Rebels – be it on the mound, in the field, at the plate or a combination of all three.

David Goforth made his first Sunday start and was as effective as anyone had been in that role in a while. But he admitted he wasn't good enough.

Mike Bianco

"I missed a few pitches here and there," the third-year sophomore righty said. "The first couple if innings I rolled along pretty good. I felt good, but I'd definitely say I was nowhere near as good as my first start."

His first start was last Tuesday in a 5-3 win against Mississippi State in Pearl. That night Goforth went 5.2 innings with two runs on three hits, two walks and a strikeout.

Against the Vols, he only made it 4.1 innings with two earned runs on five hits, along with three walks and four strikeouts.

Bianco had a different opinion of Goforth's Sunday start against UT.

"I thought he was terrific," Bianco said. "He did what you want any starter to do, and that's give you a shot to win. He competed real well and gave us a shot. That's all you can ask."

Bianco said the Rebels hit the ball well and didn't have much to show for it. Tennessee had 13 hits and 10 runs, while Ole Miss had 14 hits but just six runs.

"We didn't get the big hits, didn't extend the lead," he said. "With 14 hits and only six runs, usually we're more efficient than that. We had four doubles in less than the first two innings today and only had one run to show for it."

Ole Miss wound up with five doubles in the first three innings and only two runs to show for it. A first-inning, two-out Matt Smith double was followed by a fly out to right for Matt Snyder.

Ole Miss did score a run in the bottom of the second. Zach Miller doubled but was later caught in a rundown trying to get to third. Back to back doubles by Mike Snyder and Miles Hamblin, which scored Snyder, made it 1-0 UM. UT got a run in the third but it could have been worse. The bases were loaded with two outs and the score was tied 1-1 when Goforth got Blake Forsythe to strike out.

Ole Miss went up 2-1 in the bottom of the third when Alex Yarbrough singled to score Tim Ferguson who had doubled.

The Volunteers took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fourth via a solo home run by Josh Liles and a groundout by Zach Osborne to score Matt Ramsey who had reached on a double.

The Vols threatened again in the top of the fifth but got nothing. A Liles double put runners at second and third. But a fly ball to Mathis in left by Ramsey was the second out, and a terrific relay throw from Mathis to Miles Hamblin enabled the Rebel catcher to tag Liles out at the plate.

Ole Miss got the lead back in the bottom of the fifth. An RBI single by Matt Smith scored Ferguson who had reached on a base hit, and it was tied 3-3. Miller walked to load the bases, and a wild pitch to David Phillips made it 4-3. But the Rebs got no more.

The Vols tied it up in this slugfest in the top of the seventh when a Cody Hawn single drove in Khayyan Norfork who had reached on a base hit and moved to second on a balk called on Matt Tracy.

The Rebels scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to make it 6-4. Matt Snyder singled to shallow center to score Ferguson, who had singled. Miller got a base hit to right that got Matt Smith home as the UT rightfielder airmailed the throw to the plate.

But the Rebs stranded runners at second and third in the seventh with only one out as Phillips struck out and Mike Snyder flew out. That would prove to be a key immediately.

UT got two runs in the top of the eighth, all with two outs. Tracy appeared to be cruising with two straight strikeouts. But then the wheels came completely off.

Osborne got a base hit to left and moved to second on a wild pitch. Pinch hitter Charley Thurber got him home with a single to left to cut the UM lead to a run. P.J. Polk walked followed by a Norfork single and Tracy was done.

Brett Huber came in and immediately walked Hawn on four straight pitches to load the bases. But he got Forsythe to fly out to center to keep things knotted at 6-6.

The Rebels blew a golden opportunity in the eighth. The bases were loaded with one out, and UT made a pitching change. Matt Smith came up to the plate looking to give the Rebs the lead. But a 4-6-3 double play got the Vols out of it and sent them to the ninth where they did what the Rebels didn't in the eighth – score some runs.

Tennessee got four runs in the top of the ninth as the Rebel pitching couldn't stop them. The Vols got six two-out runs off Rebel relievers as Bianco also tried former Sunday starter Trent Rothlin (1.0 IP, four unearned runs on two hits with two walks and no strikeouts), along with fifth-year senior Rory McKean (0.1 IP and only two batters faced, with a single and an out).

Down 10-6, Ole Miss wasn't able to score in the bottom of the ninth, and the damage was done.

A promising opportunity to make a move up in the standings against the SEC's worst record coming in was shot. Smith said the Rebels simply have to go back to work now.

"We've got to be cleaner all around," Smith said after the team had three errors on the day. "We've got to take control and when we get up, smell blood in the water and play good baseball."

They admitted that wasn't what they had done in a weekend series loss to Tennessee.

Up next is a home game vs. UALR Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

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