By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – The Missouri bench erupted with joy when Brett Graves got a swinging strikeout against J.B. Woodman to send the Tigers to the eighth inning with a 3-2 lead.
It was the last joy of the day for Graves and his teammates.
No. 20 Ole Miss finally chased Graves after seven innings and rallied against the Missouri bullpen with a six-run eighth to win 8-3 and sweep the SEC series before a crowd of 6,918 at Swayze Field Sunday.
It’s the Rebels’ first conference sweep since winning three times at Tennessee April 19-21 last year after sweeping Alabama the prior weekend.
Ole Miss (21-4, 4-2 SEC) won in spite of a four-error day in the field.
Graves, the Tigers’ ace, missed his Friday start because he was hit in the hit with an errant throw during warm-ups.
On Sunday, he wasn’t hit hard at all. He scattered four singles, walked one and struck out six. The Rebels scored against him with a two-out RBI hit from Will Allen in the fourth and a sacrifice fly by Holt Perdzock in the eighth.
His bullpen was far less successful. The Rebels rallied against right-hander Keaton Steele, who began the game as the DH, with six runs, all earned, on six hits and a walk.
Pinch-runner Cameron Dishon scored from second on Auston Bousfield’s infield hit to tie the game at 3, and Austin Anderson followed with an RBI single to right for the lead.
Ole Miss poured it on from there.
Missouri (11-12, 2-4) had a chance to extend its lead in the eighth, but freshman Wyatt Short, the Rebels’ fourth pitcher, got two big outs in a bases loaded jam and keep the deficit at 3-2.
“There are certain times in a game when the momentum shifts, and that’s the one that stands out to me,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “To leave it at one, that was huge.”
Rebels starter Sam Smith gave up a leadoff double in the first, and a bunt and ground ball later the Tigers had a 1-0 lead.
Smith settled down and scattered four more hits over six innings, giving up three runs, two earned.
Anderson was 2-for-4 as the Rebels had no extra-base hits after hitting five home runs over the first two days.
Bianco said a sweep was necessary – at some point this season – after a disappointing series loss at then-No. 1 South Carolina.
“You’d have to sweep a series that maybe you weren’t supposed to,” he said. “Maybe this was the game … with four errors, a game that when you looked from a distance you said, ‘They’re not supposed to win that game,’ but we hung in there.”