Late Surge Lifts Team Blue to Pizza Bowl Victory
Oct. 26, 2017
By Davis McCool, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. – The culmination of this fall’s work, the 2017 Pizza Bowl, featured a back-and-forth thriller between Team McArthur and Team Woolfolk, highlighted by a Thomas Dillard grand slam to give McArthur’s blue squad the edge, and ultimately, an 11-9 victory.
With the innings winding down, it looked like Woolfolk and the Red team might hold on to an 8-5 lead. Dillard, however, had other intentions when he came to the plate with just one inning to play and the bases full, and delivered a rocket to right field to give his team the one-run advantage.
“What a player, absolutely,” Team Blue manager James McArthur said. “My first pick off the board was Thomas. He’s been an awesome hitter all fall, and one of the leaders on this team, so I figured I had to go with him. He didn’t have a great night coming into that at-bat, but we believed in him and had a lot of energy in that dugout. We knew he could get it done in that situation.”
Despite being held hitless through five at-bats, Dillard knew that his team needed him in the 11th inning.
“I was 0-for early in the game, and I hadn’t really helped my team out yet, but I knew it was a long game and that I was going to get one more at-bat,” Dillard said. “I just wanted to help my team out and eat some pizza after.”
“Tim (Elko) came up to that at-bat, and I just told him that this was a huge opportunity right here,” McArthur said. “It’s your last at-bat, so make it count and just give us a chance.”
In the early innings, however, it was Tim Rowe who helped the blue team stay in the ballgame, with a pair of solo home runs to keep the game interesting.
“A big guy like Rowe can get up there and hit the long ball in a smaller field,” McArthur said. “I knew he could be a game changer, and he showed up for us without a doubt.”
Cooper Johnson was one of McArthur’s most consistent playmakers on the day, with a 4-for-6 game including a double and three runs. Newcomer Carl Gindl also played a significant role in the bottom of the order, with a pair of RBI to help cut Team Woolfolk’s lead early. Michael Fitzsimmons contributed to the effort as well with a strong .500 showing at the plate.
In the other dugout, Team Red’s powerful lineup, led by veteran Will Golsan, had Woolfolk’s boys poised for a win until Dillard’s game-changing home run. Golsan was a single short of the cycle, and was 3-for-5 on the day with a home run, triple, and a double, good for two RBI and three runs.
Directly behind him in the lineup, Nick Fortes provided a powerful one-two punch with Golsan, including in the eighth inning, when the two hit back-to-back long balls. The meat of Woolfolk’s lineup, from Golsan and Fortes to Ryan Olenek and Cole Zabowski, combined for ten out of their team’s 14 hits, and also accounted for every RBI on the day.
On the mound, McArthur’s team was led by starter Brady Feigl, with middle relief from Parker Caracci, Colin Coates, and briefly, Emmanuel Fernandez, before being closed out by the team’s lone senior pitcher, Will Stokes.
Woolfolk elected to open the game with two first-year guys, both of which excelled and led the team to a hot start. Austin Miller, a junior college transfer, earned the start and was perfect on the bump. Miller did not allow a baserunner in his three innings pitched, to go along with two strikeouts. Jordan Fowler and Will Ethridge, who led all pitchers with four strikeouts, were Woolfolk’s setup pitchers, while Connor Green and Pierce Smith helped close out the game.
It was McArthur’s blue squad who ultimately earned the come-from-behind win, however, and reaped the benefits of being victors of the Pizza Bowl.
“We believed in ourselves and the team we had the whole time,” McArthur said. “We knew we had a lot of talent, and a lot of heart, and if we pitched the ball well and had some timely hits, that we would get the job done. And we did.”
For all Ole Miss Baseball news and information, visit the official athletics site OleMissSports.com. For more social media updates, follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissBSB, on Facebook at Ole Miss Baseball and on Instagram at olemissbsb.
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