HOOVER, Ala. (WLBT) - The No. 7 seeded Ole Miss Rebels escaped Tuesday's single-elimination matchup with Missouri with a one-run victory, as dominant pitching and some quality defensive plays allowed the Rebels to hang on for a 2-1 win.
Ole Miss improves to 34-24 on the year and avenges a series loss earlier this year in Colombia, Missouri, in which the Tigers took two from the Rebels. The win on Tuesday ensures that Ole Miss will stick around in Hoover for at least the next two days, as the Rebels have now entered double-elimination play. Next up on the schedule will be a matchup against second-seeded Arkansas in Wednesday's game two.
Will Ethridge was fantastic from the start, going 7.0 innings en route to earning his sixth win of the season and improving to 6-6 on the year. He allowed seven hits, but limited any significantly damaging ones with just one run allowed on a two-out double in the second inning. He finished the day with six strikeouts and zero walks.
Ryan Olenek, too, turned in his second dominant pitching effort in as many games, earning his second career save after he recorded his first just last game against Tennessee. The combined effort of Ethridge, Tyler Myers, and Olenek limited the Tigers to just one run on seven hits and one Rebel error.
Missouri struck first with back-to-back doubles by Thomas Broyles and Austin James to plate the game's first run with two outs in the top of the second.
Ethridge bounced back with a pair of 1-2-3 innings on the mound, retiring seven in a row after allowing the RBI double in the second inning.
Meanwhile, at the plate, Ole Miss struggled to get going early. Cole Zabowski and Anthony Servideo had the only Rebel hits through three innings, a pair of singles that didn't produce any runs. The Rebels threatened with a pair of baserunners in the fourth inning after a one-out single from Ryan Olenek but came away empty-handed after Servideo struck out to leave them stranded.
The Tigers responded by putting two of their own on base in the top of the fifth. Ethridge allowed a leadoff single before coming back with a pair of strikeouts. Missouri's Chris Cornelius singled through the left side to put two on, but the Rebel starter quickly bounced back with his third strikeout of the inning and his fifth of the game to hold the one-run game.
The score wouldn't remain in the Tigers favor for much longer. A leadoff double from Jacob Adams quickly paid dividends after Thomas Dillard followed it up with one of his own, a two-base knock into the left field corner to plate Adams and knot the game at one.
After a sac bunt by Grae Kessinger placed Dillard 90 feet from home, Cole Zabowski gave the Rebels their first lead of the day with an RBI single into center. He was quickly erased from the bases after the next batter, Ryan Olenek, grounded into a double play, but the inning was still good for two runs on three hits, and the first Ole Miss lead of the ballgame.
The Tigers opened up their second consecutive inning with a leadoff single, but the Rebel defense swiftly rendered it moot. Ethridge sent one batter packing with a forced fly out in foul territory, before the next Tiger hitter flew out to center to start an 8-3 double play. Olenek caught the runner at first sleeping and fired in a rocket from the outfield to double up the Tigers and earn just his second outfield assist of the season.
Once again in the seventh, Missouri led off with a single past a diving Kessinger, but the Rebels, for the third straight inning, limited the damage with a double play one batter later. Ethridge worked quickly through the top of the seventh, following up the double play with his sixth strikeout of the game on his 101st pitch.
Ethridge did not come back out to start the eighth inning, and thus capped his day at 7.0 innings, with just one run allowed on seven hits, zero walks, and six strikeouts. He was relieved by the righty Tyler Myers, who made quick work of the Tigers with a flawless first inning, striking out the side with 20 pitches, 14 of them strikes.
Servideo knocked a two-out double to the right-center wall in the bottom of the eighth as the Rebels sought some insurance runs, but he wasn't able to score, and Ole Miss led by one heading into the ninth inning.
Myers would work just one inning on the mound, as Ole Miss called Olenek out of the outfield to pitch the game's final inning. Olenek allowed two free passes, one a HBP and another four-pitch walk, but stranded both the runners he allowed with a strikeout to end the game and hand the Rebel senior his second save in as many games.
Ole Miss advances to play the No. 2 seed Arkansas Razorbacks in tomorrow’s second game of the day. The Rebels defeated the then-No. 8 ranked Razorbacks two games to one in a three-game series in Fayetteville earlier this year.