OXFORD, Miss. - The No. 24 Ole Miss baseball season saw its unbeaten start to the season come to an end Tuesday evening as Memphis claimed a 9-6 win at Swayze Field. The Rebels (7-1) could not overcome four errors that led to five runs for the Tigers (5-2).
Ole Miss and Memphis scattered nine hits apiece throughout the contest, including a game-high three by junior second baseman Tate Blackman. Freshman Grae Kessinger added his first home run of his Rebel career with a three-run shot in the second inning, while junior Kyle Watson went 2-for-4 in a multi-hit performance.
With Will Ethridge a late scratch as the probable starter due to the flu, fellow freshman Greer Holston (0-1) was called upon to make his first career start. Holston pitched four innings on short notice and struck out four Tigers looking. Two other freshmen pitched in the contest as Houston Roth tossed 2.2 scoreless innings of relief, and Oxford native Jason Barber made his debut in the ninth.
Andy Bowman, Colton Neel and Alec Trela recorded multi-hit games for Memphis. Bowman hit two doubles, while Neel and Trela both hit home runs. The Rebels pegged Memphis starter James Muse for four runs in 2.0 innings, but the lefty duo of Drew Crosby and Hunter Smith pitched 5.0 scoreless frames. Jonathan Bowlan (3) pitched the ninth to earn the save.
Holston retired the side in the first, and the Rebels wasted no time putting a run on the scoreboard. As the leadoff hitter, Blackman singled to left before advancing to second after a Ryan Olenek walk. The pair of Rebels advanced 90 feet each after a failed pickoff at second, and Ole Miss took advantage of the miscue. Will Golsan hit a ball to center field deep enough to score Blackman and give his team a 1-0 after the first inning of play.
The lead didn't last long as Memphis answered with three runs in the top of the second. The Tigers used an RBI and two sacrifice flies to take a 3-1 lead, but the Rebels countered to turn the game back in their favor. Chase Cockrell took one for the team, getting hit by a pitch, and Watson doubled down the left field line. With two ducks on the pond, Kessinger left the yard with a three-run blast into the Ole Miss bullpen. Just like that, the Rebels had the lead back at 4-3.
Memphis added runs in back-to-back innings to regain a one-run advantage, 5-4. Neel homered down the left field line in the third, while the Tigers' third sac fly of the game broke a 4-4 tie in the fourth. The visitors looked to build their lead one inning later, loading the bases with one out against reliever Andy Pagnozzi. However, the righty worked out of the jam, striking out the slugger Bowman to keep Memphis scoreless in the frame and the deficit at one.
An error-filled sixth inning allowed three more runs to cross the plate and increase the Memphis lead to four, 8-4. Three unearned runs were surrendered due to three errors made around the infield.
Ole Miss cut into the margin in half with a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth. Colby Bortles and Cole Zabowski started the scoring frame with a couple of singles, while Cockrell moved the two over on a groundout to the pitcher. With a grounder to the right side of the infield, Nick Fortes knocked in Bortles, and Zabowski scored on a wild pitch during the next at-bat.
Memphis added an insurance run in the ninth on a solo blast by Trela. Bowlan, the Tigers' closer, sent the Rebels down in order to earn the save.
Looking to get back to their winning ways this weekend, Ole Miss will hit the road for the first time this season to participate in the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic (March 3-5). Competing in one of the most prestigious regular season tournaments in the country, Ole Miss will face three Big 12 teams in Baylor (March 3), No. 10 Texas Tech (March 4) and No. 1 TCU (March 5) at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.
The Rebels suffered their first loss of the season, dropping to 7-1 on the year.
Ole Miss made four errors on the evening, the most in a game since March 25, 2015 at Arkansas.
Probable starter Will Ethridge was a late scratch due to the flu, so freshman Greer Holston made his first start as a Rebel.
Freshman Grae Kessinger hit a three-run homer in the second, the first home run of his Ole Miss career.
Another freshman, Houston Roth, pitched a career-high 2.2 innings and did not give up a run.
Freshman pitcher and Oxford native Jason Barber made his Ole Miss debut, pitching in the ninth.
Will Golsan increased his hitting streak to eight games; he is the only Rebel with a hit in all eight contests this season.