By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
NASHVILLE – If Ole Miss believes it has something to say to the NCAA tournament selection committee, it had better speak loud and clear today.
The Rebels will turn to R.J. Hively to avoid a sweep at the hands of surging Vanderbilt, which for the second straight game applied pressure on the basepaths and cashed in on limited opportunities.
The result was a 6-2 victory over No. 25 Ole Miss, clinching the SEC series before a crowd of 2,955 at Hawkins Field.
The Rebels surveyed the landscape by sending scouts out to second base a handful of times but couldn’t get all the way around the bases until Sikes Orvis delivered a pinch-hit RBI double in eighth, ending a string of 16 scoreless innings. They trailed 4-1 at that point.
Ole Miss (34-21, 14-15 SEC) got as far as third base once previously, that in the first as Tanner Mathis doubled and was bunted ahead, but Alex Yarbrough and Matt Snyder could not drive him in.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco says he knows what it takes to restore his offense but can’t just make it happen.
“It’s about confidence. Nobody knows when it happens,” he said. “We had opportunities to score but couldn’t do it.”
Orvis’ hit to right-center wasn’t a game-changer in the big picture, but it did allow Mike Mayers to escape one of the cruelties of baseball by being charged with a loss after scattering three hits in six shutout innings.
Vanderbilt (28-25, 15-14) exploded against the bullpen with five runs, all earned, and eight hits against three different relievers.
Bianco went to the bullpen quickly after Anthony Gomez led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to bring Conrad Gregor to the plate.
“Mike was going to face Gregor again, and I didn’t like the swings Gregor had off him the last time, plus he was right at 100 pitches,” Bianco said.
With Mayers out, Vanderbilt seized opportunity, chasing Chris Ellis after two straight hits. The Commodores then ran around the bases as reliever Hawtin Buchanan was unable to field a bunt on his first pitch, and there were two errors on a double steal as Will Allen’s throw went into left field, and Mathis retrieved it and threw too high to second base.
When the dust settled Vanderbilt had four runs on four hits and two errors.
“Our offense is in a funk right now. Eventually they’re going to come out of it,” Mayers said. “I have all the confidence in the world that Yarbrough, Snyder and those guys will come swinging tomorrow and give R.J., plenty of run support.”