KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Matt Crouse tossed his second complete game in the last three weeks on Friday, holding the Volunteers to one run as Ole Miss (17-6, 2-2 SEC) defeated Tennessee (17-5, 1-3 SEC) by a score of 6-1 to claim the series opener.
Crouse (6-0) scattered five hits over nine innings and struck out six batters with two walks as he helped lead the Rebels to the win.
Steven Gruver (3-2) suffered the loss for the Vols as he allowed five runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts in 7.1 innings of work.
The offense was efficient for the Rebels, as Alex Yarbrough went 2-for-4 at the plate with a two-run home run and Matt Smith hit his fourth home run of the season to get things started. Yarbrough was one of three Rebels with multiple hits, as Tanner Mathis and Taylor Hightower also notched two hits each.
"Matt Crouse was really sharp out there tonight," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "He was able to throw all three of his pitches for strikes against an aggressive and good Tennessee team that really swings the bat. He kept them off balance.
"There was a great play by Mathis there defensively at the end," Bianco said. "When we're able to play defense like that it makes things a little easier."
Ole Miss struck first, putting a run on the board in the fourth inning when Smith opened the frame with a solo shot to left field to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead.
The Rebels extended the lead in the sixth inning, moving out 4-0 in front of the Volunteers. Matt Smith was it by a pitch to reach base and stole second before scoring on a single to left from Matt Tracy. Alex Yarbrough then hit his first home run of the season, sending the ball over the wall in left field to give Ole Miss the four-run lead.
Tennessee got on the board in the seventh, using a solo shot to left center from Matt Duffy to break a string of 23.0 consecutive scoreless innings pitched for Crouse and get the Vols on the board.
Ole Miss got a fifth run home in the eighth inning when Mathis scored from third on a wild pitch. Mathis doubled to open the inning and took third on a sac bunt from Blake Newalu. He then scored on the first pitch to Matt Smith as it bounced in front of the plate and got away from the catcher to give the Rebels the 5-1 lead.
The Rebels added to the lead in the ninth, pushing a sixth run home when Jordan King scored on a groundout to second from Mathis. King walked to open the inning and moved to third on a single to right from Hightower to set up the score on the Mathis groundout.
The defense was solid in the ninth for the Rebels as the leadoff man reached on a single. A double play put two outs on the board as Khayyan Norfork flew out to the wall in left field. Mathis threw in to Yarbrough who slung the ball to first ahead of the runner going back to the base for the double play.
A walk and a double put two men in scoring position after that for Tennessee, but Crouse got Josh Liles to fly out to right to end the game with the Rebels claiming the 6-1 win.
Ole Miss and Tennessee return to action at 2 p.m. CT on Saturday for the second game of the series. The game will be televised by SportSouth.
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