FINAL: Ole Miss 7, Tennessee 4, 11 innings
The importance of today's win cannot be overstated, not that the Rebels would have been out of postseason chances with a loss, but it removes a ton of pressure.
I'm thinking the Rebels need a minimum of 14 SEC wins to get to the NCAA tournament. Today's win leaves them with 13. They have a chance for the sweep tomorrow, and will start R.J. Hively, one of their hottest pitchers. That should mean a much better showing for starting pitching than in the last three Sunday games when the Rebels have been outscored 27-8.
For most of the day, the 13th win seemed out of reach. Ole Miss came up empty on big swing after big swing before Sikes Orvis tied the game with a 2-run shot in the bottom of the ninth, and Matt Snyder won it with a 3-run shot in the 11th.
It looked like the Rebels were playing tight, and Snyder implied such afterward when he spoke of the need to get away from the big swings and just relax.
The Rebels did not get a quality start from Mike Mayers, who lasted just four innings and gave up six hits and three runs. He left trailing 3-0. A strong hitting team could have made that worse, but with Tennessee, it was really like death by paper cut. Still, a run here and a run there are pretty big when your own offense is not hitting.
Tanner Bailey had a really strong outing in relief, going five innings with just one hit allowed. Unfortunately, that hit was a home run or the Orvis blast would have been a game-winner in the ninth.
Wins like these sometimes have a carry-over effect. Maybe the Rebels come out more confident tomorrow with Hively on the mound, more confident in their own offense for the way they closed today, and they could face a Tennessee team just ready to get to the end of the season.
If it all adds up that way and the Rebels get a sweep, they could be a loose and confident team that could get a game or two in Nashville next week.
It's all a building process, but sometimes a swing her and a swing there - like the swings delivered by Orvis and Snyder - make that kind of difference.
About a half hour from first pitch here for Game 2 where the Rebels have a chance to win the series against the Vols.
Special thanks to Chase Parham for handling Game 1 last night while I attened a nephew's graduation at Mississippi State. It might have been the first time I heard the national anthem sung at MSU without a wish for ill will toward Ole Miss at the end of it. Congratulations to those who graduated from Ole Miss earlier today. I'm sure the national anthem was equally clean.
Setting up last night.
Tennessee's Dalton Saberhagen pitched a complete game but lost, scattering 11 hits but allowing only four runs in eight innings.
The numbers indicate Bobby Wahl was on with a good, deep, quality start - seven innings, five hits, two runs, two walks, six strikeouts.
R.J. Hively pitched two hitless, scoreless innings, striking out four to earn his third save. If the Rebels can manage their pitching today - and win - Hively can start tomorrow. That's been the plan from the beginning of his move to the bullpen, but it hasn't worked that way yet.
Players say there's no pressure to win the first two games of an SEC series based on Sunday results for the last three weeks. I suspect they're fibbing a little bit. Still in need of SEC wins to fill out a postseason resume, the Rebels very much need a series victory, and their chances are much better with a win today since they've been outscored 27-8 the last three Sundays.
I will have live updates on Twitter and will be back here after the game.
2B Will Maddox .299
SS Zach Osborne .264
DH Davis Morgan .287
LF Drew Steckenrider .248
CF Chris Fritts .252
RF Jared Allen .190
3B Chris Pierce .272
C Ethan Bennett .188
1B Parker Wrmsley .281
RHP Nick Williams 3-4, 3.67
LF Tanner Mathis .340
3B Andrew Mistone .243
2B Alex Yarbrough .404
1B Matt Snyder .348
C Will Allen .344
DH Zach Kirksey .288
CF Auston Bousfield .280
SS Austin Anderson .224
RF Will Jamison .262
RHP Mike Mayers 4-2, 4.01