Notes: Rebels tied for SEC West lead after 8-run comeback
OXFORD | The lightning delay Saturday night didn’t ignite the Ole Miss comeback. It simply delayed it.
After Cole Zabowski hit a two-run home run in the fourth to cut Florida’s lead to six runs, Ole Miss started the fifth inning with three straight singles before the game was halted for 63 minutes with lightning in the area.
Ole Miss eventually won, 12-10, to sweep the series, but it was 8-3 at the time of the delay with two on and no outs. Third base coach Mike Clement went into the dugout with energy, willing his hitters to stay locked in because of the opportunity ahead.
“Coach Clem was fired up because we had the inning set up,” Grae Kessinger said.
Four straight hitters reached base following the lightning delay and when Knox Loposer’s two-run double raced down the left field line Ole Miss had the game within a run. An RBI groundout tied it a batter later, and Chase Cockrell’s RBI single gave Ole Miss a 9-8 lead. Ryan Olenek’s second hit of the frame made it 10-8.
All in all the eight-run inning turned an 8-0 hole into a two-run lead in 1.5 innings. The perseverance turned a good weekend into a great one and set the Rebels up well moving forward.
“We challenged them after the first game and said that it’s such a mediocre attitude to think we have two in the bag and if we lose this one it’s OK,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “It’s never OK. When you get opportunities (you have to take advantage). You only get 30 of these games.
“After playing so well the first two games and they put up eight runs in the first four innings and you’re down 8-0 it doesn’t look good. Looks like the baseball gods said, ‘OK you got your two and this one is theirs.’ A lot of credit to our guys.”
Ole Miss is tied with Arkansas and LSU for first place in the SEC West, a half game ahead of Texas A&M and one game in front of Mississippi State and Auburn in the loaded division. Only Georgia (9-3) and Vanderbilt (7-5) have winning conference records in the SEC East.
The Rebels completed a strange week well following the loss to North Alabama on Tuesday. Ole Miss started the week with the No. 30 RPI, saw it dip as low and No. 41 and finish the week at No. 24.
After struggling with the Lions on Tuesday, Ole Miss tied its school record with 40 runs in an SEC series -- equaling the total from three games at Vanderbilt in 1957. The 40 runs are the most Ole Miss scored in any series since putting up 45 on Minnesota in 2008.
Ole Miss, which has won five straight SEC games, hosts Kentucky this weekend. The Wildcats are 17-15 overall and 2-10 in the SEC. LSU and Texas A&M swept the Wildcats to start league play, and UK salvaged one game each against Georgia and Missouri.
“We have keep feeding off this,” Kessinger said. “When we play like this we’re really good.”
CARACCI DOMINANT IN SEC PLAY
It’s hard for pitching to be the story in a game that featured 22 runs, but Parker Caracci’s recent run certainly stabilized the Florida series finale for Ole Miss.
Caracci pitched the final 3.2 innings, one out from his career-high that he’s done twice, and gave up one hit with no runs scored other than an inherited runner whom went home on a wild pitch.
Caracci struck out two, walked one and threw 34 of 56 pitches for strikes. Florida put two on with one out in the eighth, but Caracci worked out of it before throwing a perfect ninth inning. He’s been electric all of SEC play, partly thanks to more confidence in his slider.
It was a strikeout pitch and a get-ahead offering on Saturday, paying off recent work he’s put in during the week to increase his feel for the pitch. It’s similar to 2018 when Caracci lived off the fastball early in the season before mixing in offspeed pitches as the year went on.
“He’s going to go as long as he can go,” Bianco said about Caracci Saturday. “He’s such a great competitor and wants the ball. I just knew if we got it close during lightning delay that he would come after (Austin) Miller and go as long as possible. The idea was to go Olenek after that. Then Ryan gets hit in the hip and isn’t able to pitch. Caracci had this. We didn’t have to warm up anybody.”
Caracci hasn’t allowed a run in 7.2 SEC innings and has 10 strikeouts with one walk. His league work includes a win and three saves along with a .083 opponent batting average and a 0.42 WHIP.
“I love having the ball in my hand,” Caracci said.