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.