Oxford, Miss. - The Ole Miss baseball team used a four-run eighth inning to upend No. 19 Texas A&M 6-4 Saturday night at Swayze Field. On a night in which the Rebels (30-21, 12-14 SEC) honored their two seniors, Colby Bortles and Sean Johnson, they turned a two-run deficit into a two-run lead to come back and even the weekend series with the Aggies (35-16, 15-11 SEC).
Everything fell into place during the eighth inning. After a Texas A&M error allowed two runs to score and tie the game, prompting a mound visit, the 8,132 fans in attendance went crazy as the videoboard showed the Ole Miss softball team completing a historical run in capturing the SEC Tournament championship. With positive vibes filled throughout the stadium, Grae Kessinger belted a two-out double that gave the Rebels the lead for good and sent Swayze Field into a frenzy.
Tate Blackman and Nick Fortes provided two hits each to lead the Rebels at the plate. On the mound, the Ole Miss bullpen allowed only one run in 4.1 innings of work. Freshman Will Ethridge (2-2) tossed 1.2 scoreless frames to earn the victory, while Dallas Woolfolk (11) closed the game in the ninth to pick up the save. The Rebel arms struck out 13 Aggies throughout the night.
For the second straight game, freshman second baseman Braden Shewmake paced the Texas A&M offense with a pair of extra-base hits. Starting pitcher Corbin Martin pitched 6.0 innings and gave up two runs on four hits and four walks. John Doxakis (2-3) suffered the loss after surrendering three runs despite only one of them being earned.
Each team scored a run in the first. Texas A&M took advantage of a leadoff walk and a wild pitch that allowed consecutive outs to bring the runner home. However, the Rebels answered to bring the game back to a standstill. Blackman ripped a single up the middle to start the inning, and he moved into scoring position on a groundout to third. With two outs, Fortes smoked a clutch base hit into center field to score Blackman and knot the contest at 1-1.
Ryan Rolison faced the minimum for the next 2.2 innings, which included striking out the side in the second. With two outs in the fourth, the Aggies rallied to plate a pair of runs and regain the lead. Ole Miss got one of the runs back in the bottom half thanks to Blackman's second hit of the game. Through four complete, Texas A&M held a 3-2 advantage.
The Aggies added a run in the seventh, but the damage was limited thanks to a tremendous relay that led to an out at home. On a double to deep center field, Texas A&M tried to score the runner from first. Center fielder Ryan Olenek got the ball quickly to cutoff man Kessinger, who rifled a strike to Cooper Johnson at the dish. The perfect throw froze the runner heading home and started a pickle. Johnson threw to Bortles at third before the senior tossed it back to complete the out and prevent Texas A&M from adding to its two-run cushion.
That played swung a little momentum in the Rebels' favor, setting up for the big eighth inning. Fortes and Olenek provided back-to-back singles before Olenek stole second to put the tying run in scoring position. Tim Rowe hit a chopper to the Texas A&M shortstop that was mishandled and allowed not only one run to score, but two as Olenek sped around the bases to square the game at 4-4. With two outs, Kessinger belted a deep fly to left-center field that ricocheted off the top of the wall, and Rowe motored all the way home from first to give the Rebels their first lead of the ballgame. Golsan added an insurance run with a RBI single to center field, capping the four-run inning as the game went into the ninth 6-4.
With the contest flipped on its head, Ole Miss brought out its closer to finish the job. Woolfolk did just that, pitching a scoreless ninth to complete the comeback victory.
Ole Miss and Texas A&M will conclude the series with the rubber match tomorrow afternoon. First pitch is set for 12 p.m. CT on SEC Network. The Rebels will send junior David Parkinson (5-3, 3.66 ERA) to the hill, while the Aggies will look to sophomore Stephen Kolek (3-2, 3.31 ERA).