OXFORD, Miss. –Tanner Mathis went 2-for-4 with two RBI while Bobby Wahl and R.J. Hively combined to hold the Volunteers’ bats in check as No. 24 Ole Miss (32-18, 12-13 SEC) defeated Tennessee (24-25, 8-17 SEC) by a score of 4-2 on Friday night in the series opener.
Wahl (6-1) picked up the win with 7.0 innings of work and allowed two runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Hively then picked up his third save of the season with 2.0 scoreless and hitless innings, retiring all six batters faced and posting four strikeouts.
Dalton Saberhagen (5-2) pitched a complete game for Tennessee, allowing four runs on 11 hits with two walks and two strikeouts in the outing.
“It’s nice to win on Friday,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “We haven’t done that in a while. Bobby (Wahl) was terrific. Offensively, Coach Godwin really had the guys locked in. Even though we only scored four runs, we looked good offensively all night long. We got some good swings. Blake Newalu got big hit run early. Preston Overbey was only in for two at-bats, but he swung the bat well. Auston Bousfield continues to swing well for us. We had another clean night defensively. We were able to answer their score and that’s big momentum wise.”
Tennessee struck first, pushing home a run in the second inning when Chris Fritts scored from third on a sac bunt from Parker Wormsley. Fritts reached on a lead-off walk and moved first to third on a single up the middle from Chris Pierce. Wahl then got a groundout and a strikeout of the next two batters after the sac bunt to limit the damage in the inning.
Ole Miss responded in the home half of the inning, driving in three runs on four straight hits to open the inning. Bousfield led things off with a double to left center before scoring on a single to right field from Overbey. Newalu then doubled to put two men in scoring position before Mathis delivered a single up the middle to drive in both Overbey and Newalu and put the Rebels on top 3-1.
The Vols cut the lead to one run in the sixth inning when Zach Osborne scored from third on an infield single to third base from Pierce with two outs on the board. Osborne singled to right before taking second on a groundout to first from Davis Morgan. Drew Steckenrider walked before a double steal with Osborne and Steckenrider would put two men in scoring position. The Rebels struck out the next batter before Osborne would score on the Fritts single to make it 3-2.
Tennessee would try another delayed steal with runners at first and third, but the Rebels caught the lead runner, Steckenrider, in a rundown between third and home and got the out to end the inning.
For the second time on the night, Ole Miss answered a Tennessee score with one of its own in the bottom half of the inning. Newalu delivered a sac fly to center field to score Bousfield and Ole Miss reclaimed a two-run lead at 4-2 that would hold down the stretch.
Ole Miss and Tennessee will return to action at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field. It will be senior day for the Rebels who will honor five seniors in pregame ceremonies. The game will be televised by SportSouth.
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