OXFORD, Miss. — Saturday's swing day from Swayze Field against the No. 1-ranked Louisville Cardinals was a back-and-forth affair through nine innings, featuring numerous different ties and recouped leads, but the No. 18 Ole Miss Rebels (1-1) were ultimately able to pull away behind a career day from junior Cael Baker.
Baker set the tone early with a solo home run in the first inning, sealed the game late with a two-run home run in the seventh inning, and helped along the way with two more hits, four RBI, and a pair of runs. He finished his day 4-for-4 with two home runs, a double, and a single after going 0-fer in Friday's matchup and solidified an Ole Miss victory on Saturday's series-evening matchup.
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Gunnar Hoglund delivered a strong start for the Rebels, going 5.1 IP with seven strikeouts, one walk, and just three runs allowed, but it seemed as if every time Ole Miss begun to pull away Louisville clawed right back.
The determination from the Cardinals forced the Rebel bats to be the difference makers in today's victory, as opposed to their quiet night in Friday's loss. Baker was joined by freshman Peyton Chatagnier and sophomore Kevin Graham as the only other Rebels with multiple hits in today's game, while the team as a whole managed to string together 12 hits against a potent Louisville bullpen.
Ole Miss was able to jump on Cardinals starter Bobby Miller early, plating three runs in the game's first inning, before he was able to settle in over the next four.
In the first, the middle infield tandem of Chatagnier and shortstop Anthony Servideo again showcased a dominant one-two punch at the top of the lineup when Chatagnier was able to drive in Servideo on an RBI double before the game's first out was recorded. Tyler Keenan added a run on an RBI groundout, while Baker provided the inning's third and final run on his first of two homers.
Louisville chipped away at the Rebel lead all throughout the game, but the Ole Miss pitching staff was always able to limit the Cardinal bats to no more than one run per inning. Hoglund allowed runs in the second, fourth, and fifth innings as part of his six hits allowed, but was always able to limit the damage, strand runners, and allow minimal runners to score.
The Rebel starter exited after recording one out in the sixth inning, making way for freshman Benji Gilbert in his first career appearance on campus. The rookie allowed one run on a pair of hits but closed his one and only inning with a swinging strikeout to Louisville left fielder Levi Usher.
Ole Miss first baseman Tim Elko, however, quickly recouped the Rebel losses with a solo home run in the bottom half of the inning, one of the three Ole Miss homers today.
Senior captain Greer Holston took over for Gilbert in the seventh, but allowed one run to score in just a third-of-an-inning's work which tied the ballgame at five apiece.
The Ole Miss bats finally broke through and quashed the stalemate in the bottom of the seventh. Tyler Keenan recorded his first hit of the season with a one-out single before Baker brought them both home with a two-run bomb to left-center. With Louisville lurking right behind, however, the Rebels knew they needed as much insurance as possible, and they found it in the bat of Graham, who doubled and later came around to score on an RBI fielder's choice from Elko.
Reliever Austin Miller was looking to close out the game, having quickly worked through the seventh and eighth innings, but ran into some trouble in the ninth after allowing a home run and two more runners to reach. With the tying run on base and the go-ahead run at the plate, Miller was replaced with sophomore Braden Forsyth, who closed the game in dramatic fashion with a strikeout to Louisville first baseman Ben Bianco.
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Miller (1-0) earned the win, while Forsyth picked up his first career save.
The win today evened the series with the No. 1 ranked Louisville Cardinals and sets up an intense Game 3 on Sunday. The Rebels will trot out freshman Derek Diamond in his first career start tomorrow, who will work against the Cardinals' RHP Luke Smith. First pitch is set for high noon in what is sure to be a raucous atmosphere at Swayze Field on Sunday afternoon.
- Ole Miss improves to 1-1 on the year.
- The Rebels also improve to 9-9 all-time against Louisville, and 6-7 against No. 1 ranked teams in the past five years.
- Cael Baker blasted his first Division 1 home run today with a solo shot in the first inning. He was also responsible for the go-ahead two-run HR in the seventh inning, as well as two more hits to finish his day 4-for-4 with a pair of runs and 4 RBI.
- Baker became the first Rebel to hit multiple homers in one game since Thomas Dillard last did it in the Oxford Regional in 2019 versus Jacksonville State.
- Junior Tim Elko also hit his first homer of the season, a solo HR in the sixth inning that was able to give the Rebels a late lead. Elko only hit two such home runs a season ago.
- Freshman Benji Gilbert made his college debut with a relief appearance in the sixth inning. He threw two-thirds of an inning, allowed one run, and struck out one batter.
- Braden Forsyth also made his Rebel debut today as he appeared in the ninth inning in relief of Austin Miller and also earned his first career save.
- Senior captain Greer Holston made his first appearance in almost a full calendar year today, the last being a one inning relief appearance versus Mississippi State on April 23, 2019.