By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – In what looked like an epic battle of survival, with lead changes and swings of emotion, Ole Miss was finally voted off the island.
This Sunday game was more competitive but the result the same, and the 11th-ranked Rebels dropped their first SEC series of the season after losing back-to-back games to Tennessee.
The Vols rallied from a 6-4 deficit with six two-out outbursts – two in the eighth and four in the ninth – to beat Ole Miss 10-6 before a Swayze Field crowd of 6,043.
A week after winning twice against then-No. 2 Florida, the Rebels drop a home series to a team that was winless in the SEC until Saturday. Now they go on the road for six straight SEC games, to Georgia this weekend, then to South Carolina.
David Goforth, the third Sunday starting pitcher this season, gave the Rebels a chance. In his second career start the former closer lasted 4 1/3 innings with five hits, two earned runs, four strikeouts and three walks.
While Goforth got off to a fast start, Ole Miss doubled four times against Vols starter Stephen Gruver in the first two innings but had only one run to show for it.
The Rebels had 14 hits but committed three errors.
Ole Miss pitching has allowed 10 or more runs in four of its last five Sunday games.
“The bottom line is we’re not playing well, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Sunday, Friday or Saturday,” Goforth said. “We’re not playing well.”
Charley Thurber did not enter the game until the eighth as a pinch-hitter but had RBI hits in both the eighth and ninth innings for Tennessee (15-14, 2-7 SEC).
Ole Miss used five pitchers, each giving up a run or an inherited run.
The Rebels had a chance to build momentum early, but left a run on the table in the second when Zach Miller was picked off, caught in a rundown between second and third, seconds before Mike Snyder doubled into the left field corner.
“David competed and gave us a shot. That’s all you can ask,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “They were struggling coming in, but they obviously didn’t struggle the last two days. They beat us in all phases. We gave them too many things defensively, too many things on the basepaths, and didn’t score enough runs.”
Former Sunday starters Matt Tracy and Trent Rothlin both saw action.
Rothlin was one strike from leaving the top of the ninth in a 6-6 game, but Thurber stroked a run-scoring single into center field.
Two more RBI hits followed, one against Rothlin, the last a two-run double by two-hole hitter Khayyan Norfork against Rory McKean.
Rothlin entered with two outs in the eighth, walked his first batter but then left the bases loaded. His ninth began with an error by second baseman Alex Yarbrough. He rallied with outs against two of his next three batters and was ahead 1-2 on Thurber.
In one inning, Rothlin gave up four runs – none earned – on two hits and two walks.
“I thought Rothlin pitched OK,” Bianco said. “Maybe if we catch that ground ball we get through it. The bottom line is we have to play better.”