OXFORD, Miss. - No. 23 Ole Miss faced one of its toughest challenges to date today in a hard-fought battle with Southern Miss, but the Rebels came from behind to edge out the Golden Eagles by just one run. Hayden Leatherwood proved the difference maker in a pinch-hit opportunity off the bench, when he lifted a two-run home run to right field that put the Rebels ahead by a score of 4-3 and ultimately carried Ole Miss (7-1) to its seventh straight victory.
It took the Rebels six different pitchers to quell the Southern Miss bats, but a one-two punch of Max Cioffi and Braden Forsyth at the end of tonight's game was enough to hold the Golden Eagles scoreless over the last two innings and ultimately ensured that Leatherwood's late homer remained the difference maker.
Austin Miller picked up his second win of the season after 2.0 innings of relief, while Forsyth earned his team-high second save of the year after working the ninth inning.
Ole Miss has now won seven games in a row since dropping their season opener against the No. 1 ranked Louisville Cardinals. The Rebels have also won six of their last seven against in-state foe Southern Miss.
Freshman Wes Burton earned his first career start in today's game, and although he worked a 1-2-3 first inning, he ran into some trouble in his second frame. Burton gave up a double followed by two free passes to load the bases for the Golden Eagles with two outs. Bianco elected to go with his reliable reliever Taylor Broadway to work out of the mess, and the senior delivered with an inning-ending strikeout that stranded three.
At the plate, the Rebels were held hitless through two save for a Tyler Keenan single in the first but broke through the Southern Miss starter in the third inning. Freshman Cade Sammons reached on a HBP, was able to steal second base on a failed pickoff attempt and scored on a two-out RBI double from fellow freshman Peyton Chatagnier. Keenan picked up his second hit of the day one at-bat later and scored the Rebels' second run of the inning with two outs on an RBI single.
Broadway, meanwhile, was living up to his reputation as the top arm out of the Rebel bullpen in the game's early innings. He retired five in a row between his entry in the second and a one-out walk in the fourth and was able to hold the Golden Eagles scoreless throughout his entire outing of 2.1 IP.
Freshman Jackson Kimbrell took over in the fifth inning and allowed one Golden Eagle run. He worked himself into more trouble an inning later when he allowed the first two batters to reach. Austin Miller relieved Kimbrell to work damage control and was effective with back-to-back strikeouts upon entering. A pair of walks directly after, however, allowed the Golden Eagles to plate a run and tie the game up at two.
Southern Miss would take their first and only lead in the top of the seventh with a 3-2 edge, but Leatherwood ensured that it wouldn't last for long. After Justin Bench led off the inning with a four pitch walk, the powerful lefty lined his first pitch over the right field wall for a two-run home run that put the Rebels back ahead by one.
Max Cioffi worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning, while Braden Forsyth closed it out in the ninth with back-to-back strikeouts with two runners on to earn his second save of the season.
Ole Miss will now prepare for their first road test of the year, a tough three-game slate in Greenville, North Carolina, this weekend. The Rebels will face High Point, ECU and Indiana in the Keith LeClair Classic, hosted by the ECU Pirates. After that, the Rebels return home to host Memphis in a Tuesday night affair at Swayze Field.
- Ole Miss improves to 7-1 on the year on the year and 78-51 all-time vs. Southern Miss.
- Ole Miss is now 6-1 in the last seven meetings with the Golden Eagles.
- The Rebels have now won seven games in a row since dropping the first game of the season vs. No. 1 ranked Louisville.
- Hayden Leatherwood's pinch hit homer today makes him the fifth Rebel this season with multiple HRs.
- Leatherwood now has homers in consecutive at bats, dating back to Sunday's walk-off HR vs. Xavier.
- Senior Taylor Broadway has been the most utilized arm out of the Rebel bullpen this year, and he's now worked 9.2 innings of relief this season with a 0.93 ERA.
- Freshman Wes Burton earned his first career start today. - Freshman Jackson Kimbrell notched his second career appearance today.
- Junior Tyler Keenan recorded his second multi-hit game of the season today with a pair of singles.
- Despite being one of the leading hitters in the lineup, freshman Peyton Chatagnier only had two RBI before today's contest, but tacked on to his season total with an RBI double in the third.
- Braden Forsyth picked up his team-high second save of the year with a scoreless ninth inning.