LOUISVILLE, Ky. –Zach Kirksey continued to swing a big bat, belting out two of the Rebels’ three home runs on the day, including a grand slam, as No. 12 Ole Miss (14-3) defeated No. 22 Louisville (11-6) by a score of 18-8 on Wednesday afternoon.
Kirksey was 2-for-5 at the plate with five RBI, three runs scored and a walk to help lead the Rebel offense. Lead-off hitter Tanner Mathis had one of the most productive days to set up the high-scoring affair, going 5-for-7 with three runs scored and an RBI.
Seven Rebels notched multiple-hits on the afternoon as Ole Miss pounded out a season-high 22 hits. It was the most hits for the Rebels since pounding out 20 hits against Murray State on April 27, 2010. The 18 runs scored was the most every surrendered by the Cardinals at Patterson Stadium, while the 22 hits were also the most ever allowed by Louisville in their home ballpark.
Tanner Bailey (1-0) picked up his first career win as a Rebel, entering the game to start the second inning and working 3.0 scoreless innings with three strikeouts. He retired all nine batters faced, allowing Ole Miss to get the separation after the Louisville rally to take the lead in the third inning on the way to the win.
Following the five-run first inning by the Cardinals, the Rebel bullpen allowed only one hit over the course of the final eight frames.
“I’m proud of the way we played today,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “Not because of the score, but because of our ability to respond to being knocked to the ground in the first inning. Tanner (Bailey) retired nine straight batters and that really helped us. We swung the bat well and just had a great offensive day against a good team.”
Ole Miss got on the board first, capitalizing on a throwing error and a pair of singles to push two runs home. Mathis and Austin Anderson opened the game with back-to-back singles before Alex Yarbrough laid down a sac bunt to advance the runners. The throw to third sailed high, however, allowing Mathis to score and putting Anderson and Yarbrough in scoring position on the play. The Rebels added a second run a batter later on a sac fly to left from Matt Snyder that scored Anderson, and Ole Miss held the 2-0 lead.
The Cardinals answered right back in the bottom half of the frame, using three singles in the first four batters to push two runs home and tie the game. Louisville extended the lead to 5-2, continuing the rally with two singles and a double in the next four batters to grab the three-run lead on the Rebels after the first.
One swing of the bat in the third changed things as Kirksey hit his seventh home run of the season and second grand slam to give the Rebels the 6-5 lead. A walk, a double and a walk put Yarbrough, Snyder and Bousfield on for the Kirksey hit that gave Ole Miss back on top and forced a Cardinal pitching change.
The Rebels continued to build on the lead from there, using a two-run home run from Snyder in the fourth before using seven hits to drive in seven runs in the fifth inning to push the score to 15-5 in favor of Ole Miss.
The Cardinals mounted a rally in the bottom half of the fifth, loading the bases with two hit batters and a walk before another walk brought a run home. The third hit batter of the inning scored a second Louisville run before a grounder into a double play got the first outs of the inning and cut the lead to 15-8. Rebel reliever Blair Wright was able to coax a grounder to third from the next batter to end the inning with Ole Miss holding a seven-run lead after five.
While holding the Cardinals in check, the Rebels plated three more runs in the seventh inning to push the score to its final margin of 10 runs at 18-8. Kirksey led things off with his second home run of the day before an RBI double from Anderson and an RBI single from Yarbrough gave the Rebels the 10-run advantage.
Ole Miss will return to action on Friday, opening Southeastern Conference play with the first game of a three-game series against the Auburn Tigers. Game one of the weekend series begins at 6:30 p.m. at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.
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