Heartrates Rise as Rebels Improve to 2-0

Ole Miss is off to a hot start. Yesterday’s big win against TCU gave the Rebel faithful a lot to smile about. Today’s win over Texas Tech gave them a lot to stress about.

Gunnar Hoglund was as good as advertised today. He struck out 3 of the first 4 batters he faced, but then ran into a little trouble. After issuing a walk on a borderline pitch with 2 outs in the 2nd, he was taken for a ride deep in power alley by TTU Catcher Nate Rombach. He settled back in with a strikeout to end the frame and amassed 11 total Ks in his 5.1 innings of ball.

After Gunnar was back on track the offense needed to find a way to rattle Tech’s right hander, Micah Dallas. True freshman Shortstop Jacob Gonzalez did just that. With a runner on and 2 out in the 3rd, Gonzalez ripped a line drive homer over the wall in Right to tie the game. Tim Elko followed it up with a heavy swing of his own. This one didn’t leave the park, but it was mishandled by the Red Raider Centerfielder back at the warning track. Dallas tried to settle back into a groove, but the damage was done. Ole Miss struck for all 5 of their runs in the 3rd inning.

The depth and talent of both bullpens were on display. The Raiders got 5.1 scoreless innings from their relief pitchers and the Rebels earned just 1 run in 3.2 innings. Austin Miller looked very sharp for the Rebs allowing just 1 of the 6 batters he faced to reach. Max Cioffi was inconsistent with his command; he struck out 3 but walked 4. A second walk in the 9th inning and a call to the bullpen elevated every Rebel fan’s heartrate.

With the tying run on 1st base and 1 out separating the Rebels from a statement win over Texas Tech, one would expect the experience and depth of the bullpen to come to light. This seems like maybe a situation for Senior Greer Holston who has pitched in plenty of high leverage situations in his Ole Miss career. Bianco had other ideas. Bianco went with true Freshman Luke Baker to make his collegiate debut in a packed MLB ballpark and the game on the line. After a quick 3 pitch debut, the 2 run lead was cut in half and the ball turned over to a more suitable candidate, Junior Braden Forsyth. Forsyth walked the first batter he faced just to add to the drama and the Rebels looked like the lovable losers that their fan base has come to accept.

Ole Miss leading 5-4, bases loaded, full count, 2 outs, Bottom of the 9th. The pitch gets cranked into Rightfield. If this game was played at Swayze Field, then Bianco would have a lot of questions to answer right now. Thankfully, however, this high-stakes opening weekend game is in a big league park, meaning that ball was playable.

As Cade Sammons hauled in the 27th out, the crowd erupted. The nation’s longest active winning streak extended to 18 games (program record) and the Rebels secured a winning record at the toughest Opening Weekend Tournament in the country.  The Rebs will have the Texas Longhorns to contend with Monday afternoon. It will be a great stage for RHP Derek Diamond to show his progression after a solid, undefeated, freshman campaign last spring.

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