Coach Bianco’s Birthday Brings Midweek Sweep Against ULM

The Rebels celebrated head coach Mike Bianco’s birthday by giving him a sweep over University of Louisiana Monroe in the midweek series at Swayze Field on Wednesday. Though there were a few more bumps in the road than they had wished for, the Rebels ended up pulling out a 5-3 win over the Warhawks.

With neither teams allowing a single run until the bottom of the sixth inning, the second matchup between the two teams was much more competitive than the 21-7 game Tuesday night.

University of Louisiana Monroe starter Stephen Morrison kept the Rebels off the scoreboard with only a handful of hits until Colby Bortles bombed a home run into the left field bullpen in the bottom of the sixth inning to break the tie.

“He left me a curveball hanging up in the zone, and I put a good swing on it,” Bortles said. “Luckily, the wind was blowing out a little bit.”

Following the home run, ULM coach Bruce Peddie decided to call to his bullpen and switch pitchers. However, the Rebels didn’t seem to mind the pitching change as they went on to score two more runs in the inning. RBIs came from a Bryan Seamster sac fly and a Cole Zabowski base hit to right field before the four-run inning ended with consecutive pop flys from Grae Kessinger and Tate Blackman.

While Sean Johnson didn’t look like he would last long past the first couple of innings, after throwing a couple walks and reaching a high pitch count early in the game, the Rebels starting pitcher put on a dominant pitching performance. When Johnson finally did surrender a hit to the first batter in the seventh inning, coach Bianco came out to the mound to bring in reliever Brady Feigl.

“He’s a great, great competitor and a great teammate,” Bianco said about Johnson.

After settling down in the third, Johnson had a stellar day on the mound, throwing six innings and allowing only one run and one hit.

“Slider, slider, slider,” Johnson said. “I had my fastball the first few innings, and then my arm started to get a little tired, but my slider is my pitch I can throw at any count.”

On offense, Nick Fortes kept swinging a hot bat for the Rebels, blasting his third home run in two days. Fortes, who is currently leading Ole Miss with a .320 batting average, extended the Rebels’ lead to three and headed to the eighth up 5-2.

The only real trouble for the Rebels was in the top of the eighth inning, when Will Ethridge was on the mound with the bases loaded and one out. Ethridge eventually escaped the inning while only giving up one run to make the score 5-3 in favor of the Rebels heading into the bottom half.

After three quick outs, Ole Miss closer Dallas Woolfolk ran out to the mound in the top of the ninth with the score 5-3 to try and grab his 10th save of the year. After a quick double play and an incredible diving play and throw to first from Bortles, Woolfolk earned the save and reached double digits on the year as Ole Miss beat the Warhawks 5-3.

Rebels Emerge Victorious in 21-7 Slugfest Against Louisiana-Monroe

Rebel fans were treated to a home run derby Tuesday night when the University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks came to town. Ole Miss eventually secured a monumental 21-7 win in seven innings.

The Rebels collected 17 hits and scored 21 runs on a rare off-night for both pitching staffs. Greer Holston started on the mound for the Rebels but barely made it three innings after giving up seven runs. Holston hung several pitches out over the heart of the plate, and the Warhawks capitalized with multiple home runs and doubles.

Houston Roth came in to pitch with one out in the fourth inning and was solid for the Rebels, conceding just one walk and collecting five strikeouts over 2.2 innings of work. Andy Pagnozzi stepped up for one inning of perfect relief pitching in the seventh and was ready to go for more, but the Rebels got what they needed.

All but one Rebel in the starting lineup had at least one hit in the game, and six different Rebels had RBIs. The lone starting Rebel not to collect a hit was designated hitter Michael Fitzsimmons, but he was only given one chance at the plate before Tim Rowe replaced him and knocked in three runs on two hits.

Although the Rebels dominated the Warhawks on the scoreboard Tuesday night, it wasn’t until the bottom of the fourth inning that they began to pull away. The Warhawks took the lead twice before the five-run fourth inning.

“I’m real proud that the offense was real relentless tonight,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “It seemed every time they scored, we answered in a big way.”

The Rebels hit the ball all over the park, scoring 18 runs in the fourth through sixth innings. Nick Fortes smoked two home runs in one inning, leading the Rebels with six RBIs on the night.

“It was a little up and in,” Fortes said. “Those are usually the pitches that I can get to pretty well.”

It has been more than five years since the last time Ole Miss scored more than 20 runs in a game. On March 6, 2012, the Rebels defeated UT Martin at home with a 20-4 victory.

Tuesday night’s game ended early due to the run rule after seven innings of play.

“It was a lot of fun,” Fortes said. “With our team struggling a little bit in the month of March hitting the ball, it feels good to put 21 up.”

A relatively quiet night for the umps, the lone controversial call came in the bottom of the second inning when Thomas Dillard ripped a breaking ball to short, but Anthony Herrera made a great play and threw it to first. The ump called Dillard out, but fans and Ole Miss players alike felt the call could have gone either way.

The Rebels will take on the Warhawks again at 3 p.m. Wednesday.