By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – After big swings came up empty most of the day, a freshman and a senior had the biggest and most productive swings when Ole Miss had to have them.
Pinch-hitter Sikes Orvis tied the game with a two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth, and Matt Snyder won it with a walk-off three-run blast in the 11th, as Ole Miss rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Tennessee 7-4 before a Swayze Field crowd of 7,031 Saturday.
The Rebels (33-18, 13-13 SEC) clinched the series, their fourth conference series victory, and will go for the sweep today at 1:30 p.m.
Former Saturday starter turned reliever R.J. Hively will start at pitcher for Ole Miss today.
Before the Snyder home run, his 12th of the year, Ole Miss had 21 fly ball outs against Tennessee (24-26, 8-18) right-handers Nick Williams and Drew Steckenrider.
“I think we were just getting too big. It was everybody trying to do too much, and we just need to relax a little more,” said Snyder, the senior. “We have to remember what got us here, not getting too big and getting the quality at-bats.”
The win clinched a spot in the 10-team SEC tournament for Ole Miss. The Rebels can strengthen their NCAA tournament resume with a win today and success in the final SEC series at Vanderbilt beginning Thursday.
The Vols didn’t put together a monster inning against Ole Miss starter Mike Mayers, but their paper cuts led to his ouster after four innings with six hits and three runs allowed. Tennessee scratched out runs in the first, third and fourth innings.
The Rebels scored twice in the seventh on a basehit by Will Jamison and a ground ball by Tanner Mathis but left the tying run in scoring position.
Tennessee stretched the lead with a solo home run from Ethan Bennett in the ninth before Orvis crushed a Steckenrider fastball. Austin Anderson had just singled to lead off the inning.
“When he went up there I knew he was going to do something special,” said Snyder. “because he’s been working so hard. He’s had some great at-bats in the past.”
It was the eighth hit of the season for Orvis, his second for extra bases and first home run.
If all goes according to the plan, it won’t be his last.
“He had great at-bats earlier in the year, but of late he’s struggled,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “You could tell he’s lost a little confidence. Sikes, we really feel, is the future Matt Snyder, the guy who’s going to be in the middle of the lineup and is going to hit for power and drive guys in.”