By Brent Zwerneman
Special to the Journal
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – No. 11 Ole Miss simply needed some prodding to get rolling in its series opener at Texas A&M on Thursday night.
The Rebels watched A&M bust open a scoreless game in the bottom of the fourth with two runs, before rapidly responding with six of their own in an 8-4 victory before 3,797 fans in Blue Bell Park.
“A&M scored two and it looked like it wasn’t going to be my night,” said Rebels starter Chris Ellis, who’ll likely finish the regular season undefeated at 9-0. “Then we come out and score six runs. All year we’ve pretty much rallied like that.”
The series continues at 7 p.m. today, and wraps up starting 2 p.m. Saturday.
Ellis, who allowed three runs over 62⁄3 innings, shut down the Aggies (32-22, 13-15) over the first 32⁄3 innings, before A&M third baseman Logan Nottebrok started the scoring for both teams in the fourth with an opposite-field home run that bounced off the top of the right-field wall and over a leaping Will Jamison.
The Rebels (39-15, 18-10), in angling to lock up a home regional in the NCAA tournament, immediately rebounded, however, thanks in part to three errors by a bumbling Aggies defense in the top of the fifth.
Rebels second baseman Preston Overbey led off the fifth with a walk against A&M ace Daniel Mengden (4-7), and Overbey later drove in two runs with a single between third base and shortstop, as the Rebels sent 11 batters to the plate in the decisive inning.
“We’ve been able to do that all year, in terms of handling the adversity,” Rebels coach Mike Bianco said of the instant comeback. “And Chris has done that for us all year long. Every (opener) he gives you an opportunity to win.”
Ole Miss added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth, after Austin Anderson doubled to the right-center gap, and Will Allen followed with a ground-rule double to left-center field, scoring Anderson. Pinch hitter Colby Bortles later singled home Allen.
The Aggies won two of three last year in Oxford in their first year in the SEC, after Ole Miss won the opener. The Rebels played in a regional at A&M two years ago, but have made their first trip to College Station with the Aggies as SEC foes.
“It’s a little bit different here, and it feels like the fans are right on top of you during the game,” Ellis said, smiling. “But it was a good experience.”