By Parrish Alford
HOOVER, Ala. – Jeremy Massie threw well in a surprise start, and Ole Miss hitters came through in key situations as the No. 2 seed Rebels remained alive in the SEC baseball tournament with a 7-2 win over Vanderbilt on Thursday afternoon at the Hoover Met.
Ole Miss managed only three hits against Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Beede but made him pay for five walks and two hit batters.
The Rebels’ No. 2- and 3-hole hitters, Auston Bousfield and Austin Anderson, had RBI hits in a four-run seventh that proved to be the difference.
Massie had gone from mid-week starter to SEC bullpen work before finding out late Wednesday night that he’d start in place of Christian Trent. Ole Miss assistant coach Cliff Godwin said Trent experienced some stiffness, and the staff wants to be careful with him heading into the NCAA regionals. He did not rule out Trent pitching in the SEC tournament.
Relievers Aaron Greenwood and Josh Laxer followed Massie. Ole Miss pitching has allowed a total of four runs in two tournament games.
The Commodores (41-18) had won seven straight in the series dating back to 2009 including regular season series sweeps in Nashville two years ago and in Oxford last year. The teams did not play in this regular season.
For Ole Miss (41-17) it was a key win against an opponent that began the day with a simulated RPI ranking of 7, keeping alive the Rebels’ hopes of playing their way into an NCAA tournament top eight seed.
“(Massie) kept us in the game, threw strikes and did what he could do then we went to Greenwood and Laxer, and they did their jobs,” said Godwin, who handled postgame interviews as Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco left quickly to attend his son’s high school graduation.
The Rebels backed that solid pitching with production in key at-bats, something they did not do in a 2-1 loss to Arkansas on Wednesday.
Massie went 41⁄3 innings with four hits, three walks and one run allowed. Greenwood and Laxer combined to allow just one run the rest of the way.
“Tyler Beede’s a first-rounder, and our guys did what it took to … guys on,” Godwin said.
As the game wore on getting on base required a more patient approach.
The Rebels could sense Beede’s control struggles especially after he hit the first two batters of the seventh inning when Ole Miss led 2-1.
Beede was replaced by reliever Brian Miller, who intentionally walked Braxton Lee after Errol Robinson had bunted the runners ahead.
That’s when Bousfield and Anderson delivered back-to-back run-scoring hits off Miller.
“Once he started getting a little wild we were going to try to make him fall behind so we could get to the fastball counts … that’s your best chance to get your best hits,” Anderson said.