REBELS START QUICKLY FOR FOURTH VICTORY
By Chris Burrows
OXFORD The Ole Miss Rebels provided head coach Don Kessinger a present for his 31st wedding anniversary and for the most part, he liked what he got.
The Rebels, on the strength of a five-run outburst in the first inning, topped Northeast Louisiana 7-2 Tuesday afternoon before 457 fans in Oxford-University Stadium. The win kept Kessinger’s team unblemished after four starts.
“I saw some things I really liked today,” Kessinger said. “I liked the fact that we came out and got on them for five runs early. I liked the way we put the ball in play and the way we performed defensively.”
The only thing that wasn’t pleasing was the consistency of the pitchers. Ole Miss needed two double plays and a hidden ball trick that got it out of a bases-loaded jam to keep Northeast Louisiana (3-4) at bay. Three pitchers issued six walks and hit three batters.
Starting pitcher Mike Rogers, despite being staked to the early lead, didn’t last three innings. Middle reliever Charles Barbour was more effective and worked four-plus innings to get the win. Pontotoc’s Jason Easterling, an ICC transfer, retired the final five batters to finish it, highlighted by two strikeouts.
“Our pitching wasn’t bad, but we put ourselves in position where one hit or one bad play could’ve hurt us,” Kessinger said. “But that’s to be expected early in the year. We’re going to get better there (pitching staff) and I’m very happy to be 4-0 while we’re getting better.”
Captains Joe Ignatius and Iuka’s Richy Harrelson led the offensive attack with three hits apiece. The duo had RBI hits in the first inning, as did Jason Huisman and Page Echols to give the Rebels a 5-0 lead they never surrendered.
Harrelson and Todd Mensik added insurance RBI singles in the fifth and seventh innings, respectively, for Ole Miss, which hosts the Indians again today at 3 p.m. The Rebels pounded out 14 hits and didn’t commit an error.
Ben Mann took the loss for the Indians, who got a bases-loaded single from Tommy Lewis and a solo homer from Tommy Smith to account for their runs.
“They’re a club that’s got eight starters back from an NCAA Tournament team,” Kessinger said. “So this was definitely a good win.”