By Chase Parham/Special to the Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss needed an efficient Friday night from its pitching staff.
The reliable duo of junior starter Bobby Wahl and senior reliever RJ Hively provided just that.
Wahl went seven innings, and Hively finished off the last six outs, as Ole Miss took the critical series opener over Tennessee with a 4-2 win in front of an announced 7,545 at Swayze Field.
“I thought Bobby was terrific, and (hitting coach Cliff) Godwin had the hitters locked in on a good plan,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “And of course R.J. was great at the end.”
Wahl (6-1) put up his third quality start in a row and limited the Volunteers to five hits with six strikeouts and two walks in a game that lasted just 2 hours, 20 minutes. Despite the string of strong outings, it’s Ole Miss’ first Friday win since April 20 against Arkansas.
“The key for me was my fastball that I worked down for the most part,” Wahl said. “The biggest thing for me is to give my team a chance to win… and when R.J. comes in it feels like the game is over.”
Hively was perfect for his third save since moving to the bullpen from the Saturday spot in the rotation three weeks ago. He struck out four of the six batters faced and should be available to start for the Rebels on Sunday if he doesn’t pitch today.
Tennessee (24-25, 8-17 SEC) scratched for a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a squeeze play, but Ole Miss (32-18, 12-13) put up three runs in its half of the second to take control of the game. Preston Overbey singled in Auston Bousfield, who laced a one-out double, and Tanner Mathis gave the Rebels the lead with a two-run single.
“We were able to answer, and that’s big,” Bianco said. “That’s huge for momentum, and also Bobby was able to keep Tennessee at one run in its inning.”
After the Volunteers cut the lead to one on an infield single in the sixth, Ole Miss got it right back when Blake Newalu lifted a sacrifice fly to score Bousfield, who started the inning with his second double of the night.
Tennessee starter Dalton Saberhagen (5-2) – son of two-time Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen – took the loss, allowing four runs on 11 hits in eight innings.
Mathis, Will Allen and Bousfield had two hits each for Ole Miss.
Today’s first pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m., as Ole Miss sophomore right-hander Mike Mayers (4-2, 4.01) will face Tennessee sophomore right-hander Nick Williams (3-4, 3.67).