By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Senquez Golson is a name that has generated excitement among Ole Miss fans in two sports, and Wednesday afternoon in the Rebels’ baseball home opener there was justifiable buzz.
The Pascagoula freshman who turned down an offer of more than $1 million from the Boston Red Sox last August to pursue a college football career, Golson singled, doubled, drove in a run, and stole a base, and No. 20-ranked Ole Miss defeated Arkansas State 8-1.
The season’s first game at Swayze Field drew an announced 6,430 fans, many of them students crowded into the right field section where mass celebration began when senior Zach Kirksey snapped a 1-1 tie with a three-run home run deep over the wall in the top of the fourth.
Ole Miss (2-1) had trouble getting its timing against Arkansas State (0-3) right-hander Cory Kyle in the beginning.
That changed in the fourth when Kirksey’s home run followed a single by Will Allen and a double by Preston Overbey.
The veterans led the way in the game-changing fourth, but there were other rookie success stories in the home opener.
Right-hander Sam Smith was effective in a relief appearance in the Rebels’ 7-4 win at TCU on Friday. Wednesday, he made his first start and allowed one earned run on three hits. He left after four innings.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco compared Smith to former highly successful closer Jake Morgan.
“After the first inning he really locked in,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “He just threw a ton of strikes, and that’s him. He’s got good stuff, but he pitches a lot like Morgan in the sense that he pounds the strike zone and smothers the hitters with a good fastball and slider, and he’s got a good change-up. He looks the most ready right now.”
Freshman Josh Laxer pitched two scoreless innings in relief, though he had to overcome two walks in his first inning.
Junior Blair Wright and freshmen Chris Ellis and Casey Mulholland also pitched, and the Red Wolves were held to five hits, the last two fly balls that were misplayed – one by Golson another a communication error between left fielder Tanner Mathis and freshman shorstop Jake Overbey.
Mulholland retired the other two batters he faced in a scoreless ninth.
Bianco had hoped the get Golson some playing time over the weekend, but the rain-shortened series lasted just two games, and Golson didn’t get in.
Golson started in right field and batted ninth. His first college at-bat was an inning-ending double play in the second. He beat out an infield hit in the fourth.
His double in the fifth scored Blake Newalu and reached the left field corner. Golson had thoughts of a triple, but third base coach Cliff Godwin did not after Golson missed the bag.
“I came around second and missed the whole base, I was like, ‘Lord, I got to go back now.’ I got the stop sign, but I might have kept going,” Golson said, laughing. “It felt good. It’s been a hard transition coming from football to baseball. I still have a long way to go, but it feels good to play.”