By Randy Rosetta/Special to the Journal
BATON ROUGE, La. – Lingering frustration and bad pitching were a good mix for Ole Miss on Saturday night.
After a second one-run loss in a row on Friday, the Rebels unleashed their biggest offensive assault this season, cranking out 18 hits and battering the 16th-ranked Tigers 16-3 at Alex Box Stadium.
The Ole Miss victory evened the series a game apiece, with the finale scheduled for 1 p.m. today.
When the series began, the Rebels (19-9, 4-4 SEC) ranked 11th in the league in runs scored, but they didn’t look like an offensively challenged team against a parade of LSU pitchers.
The onslaught began against Kevin Gausman, who gave up six runs in the second and third innings. After a quiet few innings, Ole Miss erupted for a nine-run seventh – the Rebels’ biggest inning this season – to put the game away.
Just how good were the Rebels?
The hit and run totals were the most this season. Every starter had at least one hit five had two or more. Every starter scored at least one run. Each hitter in the bottom third of the batting order (Preston Overby, Miles Hamblin, Taylor Hightower) supplied a two-run hit. Leadoff man Tanner Mathis led the way with four hits and three RBIs, Matt Smith doubled twice and Alex Yarbrough capped the seventh-inning eruption with a three-run homer.
“(Friday) night was a little disappointing,” said outfielder Tanner Mathis, who turned in his third four-hit game of the season. “Any time you get 16 runs and 18 hits, it’s always gotta be fun.”
Goforth gets first win
Lost in the avalanche of runs, starting pitcher David Goforth nabbed his first victory on a night when he didn’t even need the massive run support.
Goforth (1-4) kept his pitches down and induced nine ground-ball outs in a six-inning stint, including a 6-3 double play to end the Tigers’ fourth inning when they got two runners on with one out.
Two innings earlier LSU threatened to chip away at the Rebels’ 4-0 lead when Mikie Mahtook led off with a single and Mason Katz punched a hit-and-run hit to put runners on the corners. But Goforth, whose ERA dipped to 3.32, struck out Alex Edward and Ty Ross to squelch the threat – two of his six punch-outs.
“That was huge,” Goforth said. “You want to control the inning as much as possible and not give the other guys the big inning.”
With Ole Miss in control 6-0 after two more runs in the third, the only damage Goforth allowed came on Grant Dozar’s solo home run to start the third and single tally in the sixth on pinch-hitter Beau Didier’s two-out single.
The Rebels generated all the offense they needed in the first three innings as Gausman unraveled.
Smith walked to start the second and raced to third on Matt Tracy’s double. Gausman walked Snyder to load the bases before Overby fanned for the first out.
Hamblin delivered his second two-run hit in as many games with a bases-loaded single through the middle for a 2-0 lead.
Gausman struck out Hightower for the second out, but Mathis zapped the first pitch he got to center field for another run and Hamblin scored moments later on a wild pitch.
Things didn’t get any better in the third as Yarbrough and Smith tagged back-to-back doubles for another run and Snyder pushed a base hit through the right side of LSU’s drawn-in infield for a 6-0 cushion.
Now Ole Miss heads into Sunday with a chance to win a series in Baton Rouge for the first time since 1982.
“I’m very proud of David Goforth,” Rebels coach Mike Bianco said. “What an outstanding performance by him (Saturday). We really stepped up for him offensively and with no errors. It was a great offensive day for us. We were locked in from the beginning and had a lot of great at bats.”