KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The No. 8 Ole Miss baseball team earned a hard-fought 6-4 victory over University of Tennessee Saturday evening to even the series between the two schools.
Redshirt-freshman Michael Fitzsimmons belted a two-run homer in the sixth that proved to be arguably the biggest hit of the ballgame. Fitzsimmons also ripped a double, going 2-for-3 with two RBI off the bench. Junior J.B. Woodman added two hits, while freshman Ryan Olenek recorded a pair of RBI for the Rebels (18-2, 1-1 SEC).
Another redshirt freshman, Brady Feigl (2-0), earned his second victory with 2.1 innings of relief. Feigl took over for starter Chad Smith, who lasted 4.2 innings and struck out a career-high seven hitters. Dallas Woolfolk and Will Stokes combined to pitch one scoreless frame, and Wyatt Short (5) recorded his 18th career save with three strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth. The Ole Miss pitching staff combined to strike out 13 Volunteers and hold Tennessee (12-6, 1-1 SEC) without a hit in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Vincent Jackson went 3-for-5 at the dish to lead the way for Tennessee. Catcher Benito Santiago also tallied two hits and two runs. On the mound, starter Eric Freeman (1-1) last just three innings, while Andy Cox pitched the remaining six innings in relief. Ole Miss scored three runs off each of the UT pitchers.
For the second time in as many days, Ole Miss scored first. The Rebels put up three runs in the second inning with the help of three hits. Tate Blackman drew a walk to start the scoring frame, and Henri Lartigue lined the first pitch he saw into right center. Holt Perdzock followed with a double to left that plated Blackman for the game's first run. Keeping Freeman on his heels, Olenek singled up the middle to bring two more Rebels across the plate, making it 3-0 in favor of Ole Miss.
A Rebel miscue allowed Tennessee to answer with one run in the bottom of the second. After a groundout to start the inning, UT put two runners on with a walk and a single. Smith recorded a strikeout and looked well on his way to get out of the inning, ahead 0-2 on UT batter Jared Pruett. However, a ball in the dirt gave the Volunteers an opportunity to advance 90 feet. Lartigue threw down to third to try and nab the lead runner, but the ball squirted into the outfield. The throwing error brought the margin to a pair of runs. One inning later, Tennessee added another run to cut the Rebels' lead to one, 3-2.
The game remained a one-run difference as each team got out of bases-loaded jams without anyone scoring. Smith got a big strikeout in the bottom of the fourth to leave three Volunteers on base. Then, Cox retired back-to-back Rebels with the bases loaded to keep it a 3-2 ballgame. In the bottom half of the inning, a two-out rally filled the bases with Volunteers, forcing Smith out of the game. Feigl entered out of the bullpen, making his SEC debut. The pressure did not affect the redshirt freshman as he blew a fastball by UT shortstop Max Bartlett to get out of the jam and keep the Rebels in front through five innings of play.
After getting out of bases-loaded threats in consecutive innings to maintain a one-run lead, Ole Miss increased its cushion in the top of the sixth. With one on, Fitzsimmons belted a two-run homer to left field to give the Rebels a little breathing room. Feigl kept the Volunteers off the scoreboard and Ole Miss held a 5-2 advantage through six.
Tennessee brought the game back to within one with a pair of runs in the seventh. In the eighth, the Volunteers threatened to tie the game with a pair of hits. Stokes entered the game and used one pitch to get the Rebels out of another jam. Olenek caught a flyball to left, and the Volunteers tried to advance 90 feet. However, the freshman made a quick relay to Errol Robinson, who threw out the runner at third to complete the double play and end the inning.
Ole Miss added an insurance run in the ninth as Blackman battled back from a 0-2 count to draw a bases-loaded walk. In the bottom half, Short entered the game for the second time in as many nights. Coming into a save situation, the junior southpaw did what he does best, closing the game by striking out the side and locking up the 6-4 victory.
- Ole Miss starter Chad Smith posted a career-high seven strikeouts in 4.2 innings.
- Both of Michael Fitzsimmons' home runs this season have come off the bench.
- Wyatt Short recorded his fifth save of the season and 18th of his career, tying Scott Bittle for fourth on the Ole Miss all-time list.
- Ole Miss pitching held Tennessee hitless with runners in scoring position; the Volunteers were 0-for-12.
- The Rebels have struck out 27 UT hitters in the first two games of the series.
- Ole Miss improved to 11-1 when scoring first in 2016.