OXFORD, Miss. - In a back-and-forth slugfest that featured 37 different players and lasted four hours and 11 minutes, the No. 19 Ole Miss baseball team rallied to defeat No. 23 Vanderbilt 10-8 Sunday at Swayze Field. Trailing by one, the Rebels (14-6, 2-1 SEC) scored three runs in the eighth to complete the comeback and take the series from the Commodores (13-8, 1-2 SEC).
Ole Miss trailed by two before Tim Rowe and Colby Bortles led off the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, with solo home runs to tie the game. Rowe homered for the first time in his Ole Miss career, while Bortles hit his fourth as the team's leader in home runs. Coming in initially as a defensive replacement in the eighth, Chase Cockrell smacked the go-ahead RBI double in his first career SEC at-bat as the Rebels never looked back on their way to the win. Scoring the winning run was Will Golsan, who added his team-best sixth multi-hit game of the year with a 2-for-4 afternoon.
Three freshmen made their SEC debuts as Will Ethridge, Greer Holston and Ryan Rolison combined for 6.0 innings on the mound. However, it was Dallas Woolfolk (1-1) who tossed a scoreless 2.0 innings to earn the victory.
The Commodores matched Ole Miss with 10 hits, including three by leadoff hitter Jeren Kendall. Designated hitter Reed Hayes tallied two hits for three RBI as well. Vanderbilt threw seven pitchers throughout the contest as the Rebels pegged freshman starter Drake Fellows for three runs over 4.1 innings. Penn Murfee (0-1) was saddled with the loss after allowing two runs in 1.1 innings of relief.
Vanderbilt used two hits in the first to plate the game's first run, but Ole Miss responded with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning. Tate Blackman and Ryan Olenek singled before the duo advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. With a sacrifice fly to right field, Bortles brought in Blackman as Olenek moved to third. Following another ball in the dirt, this time for a swinging strike, the Vanderbilt catcher could not complete the play at first. As the throw went down the line, Olenek hustled home to turn the Rebels' one-run deficit into a one-run advantage, 2-1.
The Commodores scored another run in the third before adding three more in the fourth, taking a 5-2 lead. One inning later, Ole Miss cut the margin to two thanks to an RBI single by Golsan. The Rebels looked to create a big inning with the bases loaded and only one out. However, a groundball double play got Vanderbilt out of the frame clinging to a two-run lead.
In the sixth, another Vanderbilt run brought the game back to a three-run difference, but the Rebels answered with a trio of runs to tie the contest at 6-6. Ole Miss used patience at the plate as well as a Vanderbilt miscue to score all three runs without recording a hit. Three straight walks loaded the bases before Olenek was plunked by a pitch to bring a run across. With the sacks still full of Rebels, the Commodores were able to get a force out at home on a grounder to third. Another groundball to first looked to possibly end the frame, but the double play attempt failed as the shortstop's throw to first rolled in the dirt. The error allowed two runs to score and knot the game at six runs apiece.
A two-run home run by JJ Bleday broke the tie and gave Vanderbilt the 8-6 advantage. Following the seventh-inning stretch, Rowe sent a blast into the visiting team bullpen to make it a one-run game.
After Woolfolk worked a scoreless eighth, the momentum as well as the scoreboard shifted in favor of Ole Miss. For the second consecutive inning, a Rebel led off the frame with a home run as Bortles belted a solo shot to left to square the game at 8-8. The Rebels didn't stop there. In his first at-bat of the game, Cockrell roped an opposite-field double that scored Golsan all the way from first. Another Rebel coming off the bench, catcher Nick Fortes, followed with a base hit through the left side to bring in Cockrell and increase the Ole Miss cushion to two, 10-8.
Coming back out for the ninth, Woolfolk made sure the game stayed in the hands of the Rebels. The hard-throwing righty sent the Commodores down in order to secure the conference-opening series.
Ole Miss will spend next week on the road. Before heading to Kentucky for a weekend series with the Wildcats, the Rebels will head to Memphis to face the Tigers for the second time this season (March 21). First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT Tuesday night at AutoZone Park, home of the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. Eli Savoie and Keith Kessinger will have the call on the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network.
The Rebels improved to 8-4 versus ranked teams this season. Ole Miss has won five of the past six games against Vanderbilt, dating back to 2015. The game lasted four hours and 11 minutes, the longest game Ole Miss has played in 2017. The Rebels got three runs off Vanderbilt starter Drake Fellows; the freshman entered the game allowing only three earned runs in 27.0 innings that spanned four starts (1.00 ERA). Ole Miss scored eight runs over the final four innings, plating at least one run in each frame. With a solo blast in the seventh inning, Tim Rowe hit his first career home run and became the 11th Rebel to homer in 2017. Colby Bortles hit a game-tying home run in the eighth, his team-leading fourth of the season and 21st of his career. Coming off the bench, Chase Cockrell delivered the game-winning hit with a double in the bottom of the eighth. Dallas Woolfolk pitched 2.0 scoreless innings of relief to earn his first victory of the season. Between the two teams, a total of 37 players were inserted into the game.