NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A Colby Bortles grand slam in the ninth forced extra innings, and a Henri Lartigue double scored the game-winning run in the 16th as the Ole Miss baseball team rallied to knock off No. 1 Vanderbilt, 7-6, Saturday night at Hawkins Field. The thrilling victory over the Commodores (28-8, 11-3 SEC) marked the Rebels' (17-18, 6-8 SEC) fourth win this season against a team ranked No. 1 in the nation.
The 16-inning game was the second extra-inning game of the year for Ole Miss. The Rebels defeated then-No. 1 LSU in 14 innings earlier this season after rallying to tie the game in the ninth inning of that contest as well. The two games mark the first time in Ole Miss history that the Diamond Rebels have played two 14-plus inning games in one season. The 16-inning game also was the third-longest in program history.
Bortles' ninth-inning heroics kept the Rebels alive as his grand slam, with nobody out, cleared the wall in left field. He homered for the fourth time this season, registering the second grand slam of his Ole Miss career. The third baseman was also the last Rebel to hit a grand slam before tonight, going deep against Arkansas State, May 13, 2014.
"This is definitely a confidence booster," noted Bortles.
The bullpen trio of Jacob Waguespack, Wyatt Short and Scott Weathersby (1-1) combined to pitch 11 shutout innings. Add in starter Brady Bramlett, and the Ole Miss pitching staff kept the No. 1 team in the country off the scoreboard for 14 of the 16 innings. Waguespack pitched three scoreless innings before Short added a pair of shutdown innings. Weathersby finished the game by lasting a career-long six innings and striking out a career-high 10 hitters.
"I was just trying to keep throwing because we needed this," commented Weathersby. "This is one that really boosted the team spirit, and hopefully we come out tomorrow ready to go and win a series. We need to keep competing and fighting. Some games haven't gone our way, but for this team to keep fighting to get a win like this was huge."
Bramlett kept the Commodores hitless until the fourth inning. The Ole Miss starter ended his night allowing five runs (three earned) on three hits and three walks in the no decision; he also struck out five in his ninth start of the season.
The Rebels struck first with a run in the second inning. Bortles led the inning off with a walk before Sikes Orvis lined a pitch in to right field for a base hit. With Bortles 90 feet away from home, Errol Robinson got the job done with a RBI groundout to second base, plating his teammate and giving Ole Miss the early one-run lead.
Bramlett cruised through the first three innings without allowing a hit, striking out five of the first 10 hitters he faced. However, Vanderbilt was able to get to the Ole Miss starter in the fourth, scoring three runs on two hits and a walk. A two-run homer by Will Toffey put the Commodores ahead, 3-1, after four complete innings.
Vanderbilt added a pair of unearned runs off Bramlett in the fifth, increasing its lead to four. However, Waguespack kept the Rebels within striking distance by keeping the Commodores off the scoreboard for three-consecutive innings.
In the top of the eighth, Robinson and Austin Knight each singled to put something together at the plate. Robinson advanced to third on a long fly to right field by Kyle Watson, but Vanderbilt starter Walker Buehler got out of the inning by leaving the two Rebels on the base path.
Although a run did not cross the plate in the eighth, the two hits may have given the Rebels some momentum heading into the ninth. With Buehler out of the ballgame, a hit by pitch and two walks by Philip Pfeifer loaded the bases for Bortles with nobody out. After the wildness from Pfeifer, Bortles waited for a ball in the zone. The sophomore got what he was looking for on a 1-1 count, belting the third pitch of the at bat over the left field wall to clear the bases and tie the game at five runs apiece.
Short entered the game in the bottom of the ninth and worked a shutdown inning to force extras. After hitting the first two batters in the 11th, Weathersby came on and walked the first hitter he faced to load the bases with nobody out. Nonetheless, the senior captain calmed down and delivered his best, striking out two and forcing a flyout to send the game to the 12th.
"If anyone can do it, he (Weathersby) can," mentioned head coach Mike Bianco. "He's got the ability to strike people out, locate pitches in the strike zone and work both sides of the plate. He worked some magic there to get out of it."
Weathersby cruised on the mound to keep the game going until the Rebels broke through in the top of the 16th. Robinson walked with two outs to represent the go-ahead run on base. Lartigue, stepping to the plate for just the second time on the night, roped a double to the right field corner as Robinson bolted all the way around the bases to score. With a one-run lead, Weathersby shut the door, striking out two Commodores in the final inning to close out the thrilling Ole Miss victory.
"I'm proud of them," said Coach Bianco. "Proud of the guys; that was basically the message -- enjoy this tonight -- but don't be satisfied. We have to come out ready to play tomorrow."