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Kirksey powers No. 14 Ole Miss to blowout win against UT-Martin

Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian

 

The No. 14 Ole Miss baseball team (10-2) scored in every inning except the fourth and included a trio of home runs to propel them to a 20-4 win against the UT-Martin Skyhawks (3-10) last night.

“This was just a really good night for us offensively,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “I thought, besides Zach, who has been tremendous and continues to swing a very hot bat, several guys had some good at bats tonight.”

Senior first baseman Matt Snyder delivered the first of many blows of the night, sending a three-run home run into the right-field student section.

In the second, the Rebels scored two more runs on a 2-RBI single by junior second baseman Alex Yarbrough, who finished 3-for-4 with two RBI.

The Skyhawks got a run back in the top half of third before senior designated Zach Kirksey hit his fourth home run of the season on a laser shot into the UT-Martin bullpen.

Freshman right-hander Sam Smith’s day was done after giving up his second run of the day in the fourth. Smith went 3.2 innings, giving up two runs on four hits with six strikeouts and a walk.

“He wasn’t as sharp tonight,” Bianco said of Smith. “He just didn’t look comfortable tonight. His velocity was a little down on his fastball and his slider command wasn’t there, but he hung in there. Once you get a lead and start to extend it, it puts a little pressure on the young guys.”

UT-Martin added another run in the fifth to cut into the deficit against freshman right-hander Josh Laxer, who came in to relieve Smith. Ole Miss then got the run back in the bottom of the inning with a RBI single by sophomore shortstop Austin Anderson. In the sixth, the Rebels tacked on to their lead on a fielder’s choice RBI courtesy junior third baseman Andrew Mistone and a sacrifice fly from Kirksey with the bases loaded.

Junior right-hander Tanner Bailey took over for Laxer in the seventh after the Madison native gave up just one run on two hits in 2.1 innings for the Rebels.

“I thought Laxer might have had his best outing of the year,” Bianco said. 

Ole Miss scored their 11th run in the seventh when freshman first baseman Sikes Orvis, who pinch hit for Snyder, drove in freshman outfielder Senquez Golson from third on a groundout to short. Bailey pitched an inning of scoreless and hitless ball with a strikeout before giving the ball to sophomore right-hander Aaron Greenwood in the eighth. 

Greenwood gave up a leadoff home run in the inning for the Skyhawks’ fourth run of the game. It was also the first home run the Ole Miss pitching staff has surrendered this season. Greenwood gave up one run on one hit with two strikeouts in an inning of relief.

In the bottom half of the eighth, Anderson drove in a couple of more runs on a two-run triple. He finished the day 2-for-4 with three RBI. Anderson, then, scored on a sacrifice fly from freshman right fielder Will Jamison. 

After Golson reached on an error and freshman shortstop Jake Overbey walked, Orvis followed with a RBI of his own to drive in Golson. Junior third baseman John Gatlin loaded the bases with a walk and then Auston Bousfield got plunked to bring home another run.

The highlight of the inning, however, was a grand slam by Kirksey to extend the lead to 20-4. Kirksey, who hit two home runs and drove in seven runs, said it can be difficult to stay focused in a blowout such as last night’s game, but he said he did his best to stay in it until the end.

“The coaches make sure we stay locked in,” Kirksey said. “Coach Godwin, he makes sure we’re ready to play at all times. These at-bats count. It goes to your average. It’s good to be locked in up there.”

Freshman right-hander Chris Ellis closed things with a scoreless ninth inning.

The Rebels will welcome the Houston Cougars to Oxford this weekend for a three-game series. Friday night’s game is set for 6:30 p.m., while Saturday’s game is set for 1:30 p.m. and Sunday’s game is set for noon.