OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss started off the weekend in style with a 7-2 victory over Alabama Friday night at Swayze Field. After the Crimson Tide (13-17, 2-8 SEC) scored a run in the first inning, the Rebels (18-12, 4-6 SEC) put together a four-run fourth and never looked back to claim the first game of the Southeastern Conference series for the third time this season.
Sophomore James McArthur earned the win after pitching a season-high 7.0 innings, which also matched his personal best dating back to his freshman All-American campaign. The tall righty allowed only one run on two hits and three walks, adding seven strikeouts. He surrendered a run in the first inning before tossing six straight scoreless frames and retiring 15 of the final 16 batters he faced. Freshman Will Ethridge finished the game, giving up an unearned run in the final two innings.
Ryan Olenek continued to swing a hot bat, going 2-for-4 with a double for his third multi-hit game over the last four contests. Tim Rowe added a pair of hits and two RBI off the bench, including a pinch-hit home run in the sixth. Sophomore catcher Nick Fortes also left the yard for the first home run of his career. Five of the Rebels' nine hits went for extra bases. Along with Olenek, Colby Bortles and Thomas Dillard provided RBI doubles.
The Rebels limited the Crimson Tide to only five hits. Alabama ace Dylan Duarte (2-2) suffered the loss, giving up five runs on six hits and two walks through 5.0 innings. Ole Miss also recorded a pair of runs off reliever Mike Oczypok.
The first two hitters of the game walked, and McArthur quickly found himself in a jam to start the series. A pair of wild pitches allowed the leadoff hitter to advance to third, but with runners on the corners, McArthur forced a 4-6-3 double play. Alabama scored a run during the sequence, but that's all they would get as McArthur worked out of the inning via a strikeout. After the rough start, the sophomore did a good job limiting the damage to a single run.
Ole Miss took the lead in the fourth thanks to a four-run inning. Will Golsan led off the inning with a single before scoring all the way from first one a Bortles double to the left-center gap. The Rebel hit parade didn't stop there as Olenek went opposite field for a double of his own, giving Ole Miss a one-run advantage. Two batters later, Dillard belted another double in the same spot to plate Olenek. While he stood in scoring position after the two-base hit, Dillard remained on the move by scoring on back-to-back wild pitches to make it 4-1 in favor of the Rebels.
The Rebels played longball in the sixth. Fortes started things off with solo homer to left, ending Duarte's night after 5.0+ innings of work. Despite the Crimson Tide going to the bullpen, Rowe stepped up to the plate as a pinch hitter and crushed a home run into the student section, increasing the lead to five, 6-1.
McArthur pitched another 1-2-3 inning in the seventh to finish his night by retiring 10 consecutive Alabama hitters. Ethridge kept the streak of scoreless innings alive in the eighth, and Rowe's second hit of the game scored Cole Zabowski as the margin climbed to six. The Crimson Tide added a run in the ninth off an Ole Miss error for the final 7-2 tally.
The Rebels will look to clinch the series tomorrow afternoon. First pitch from Swayze Field will be thrown at 3 p.m. as junior lefty David Parkinson takes the mound for Ole Miss, matching up against Alabama senior Nick Eicholtz. The game will follow Ole Miss Football's spring game, the Grove Bowl, which will begin at 11 a.m. at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.