OXFORD, Miss. – The No. 8 Ole Miss baseball team used a huge offensive sixth inning as well as clutch pitching from a familiar face to claim an 8-6 victory and series sweep over No. 6 East Carolina Sunday afternoon at Swayze Field. The Rebels (3-0) scored five runs in the sixth inning to erase a four-run deficit, and sophomore Dallas Woolfolk (1) got his team out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth to help keep the undefeated season intact.
With the comeback victory, the Rebels swept a top-10 team for the first time since 2010. Ole Miss is off to a 3-0 start for the fifth time in the past seven seasons, and 10th overall under head coach Mike Bianco.
The Rebels scored six of their eight runs in the sixth inning or later, while giving up zero runs over the last three innings. Freshmen Cole Zabowski and Grae Kessinger led the offensive charge for the Rebels with half of the team’s 10 hits. Zabowski led the way by going 2-for-4 with four RBIs, including a two-run home run in the second inning for the first dinger of his career. Kessinger recorded his first career hit as well as two others by going 3-for-4 with three singles to provide a spark at the bottom of the lineup.
The Pirates (0-3) jumped on top of Rebel starter Brady Feigl with two runs in the first inning. After back-to-back singles to start off the day, Feigl recorded back-to-back strikeouts before giving up a two-run single to ECU catcher Travis Watkins, who finished the day 3-for-5 with three RBI.
The Rebel bats were held in check by ECU starter Trey Benton in the first inning, but he went on to give up four hits over just 1.2 innings of work while striking out three. His day was ended in the second inning after a one-out single to freshman Thomas Dillard followed by the Zabowski homer to center field, the first of his career. Coming on in relief, Joe Ingle faced 10 hitters and retired nine of them while surrendering one hit and recording three strikeouts over 3.1 innings of work.
The sixth inning saw nine runs cross the plate between the two clubs. The Pirates forced Feigl out of the contest with back-to-back singles and an RBI double that made the score 3-2 in ECU’s favor. Freshman Ryan Rolison (1-0) came out of the bullpen for his first appearance as a Rebel. The Jackson, Tennessee native, entered in a tough situation with runners on second and third and nobody out. He struck out the first batter he faced, but ECU countered to bring three more runs across the plate to increase the lead to four, 6-2.
The Rebels didn’t let the Pirates’ big inning deter them as they responded with an even bigger inning of their own. Senior Colby Bortles led off the frame by getting hit by a pitch, and junior Chase Cockrell moved him to second with a fielder’s choice before Will Golsan delivered an RBI single to left field to plate the third baseman. Dillard drew a walk to reach base, and a passed ball moved both Rebels intwo scoring position. With two ducks on the pond, Zabowski smacked his second multi-RBI hit of the day with a two-run single to center that sliced the deficit to 6-5 with only one out in the inning.
Redshirt-sophomore Michael Fitzsimmons made his season debut with a pinch-hit four-pitch walk before redshirt-freshman Carson Klepzig pinch ran for him, entering a game for the first time as a Rebel. With two on and one out, a grounder to short looked like a double play that would get ECU out of the inning with the lead. However, a perfect slide by Klepzig broke up the twin-killing and kept the inning alive. As he did all weekend, sophomore Ryan Olenek delivered at the dish with a double to center that plated Zabowski and Kessinger to give Ole Miss its first lead of the game, 7-6.
Sophomore Connor Green and freshman Greer Holston combined to keep the Pirates off the scoreboard in the seventh, but ECU loaded the bases with nobody out one inning later. The threat caused Bianco to call on Woolfolk, a hard-throwing righty. With a fastball between 94-95 mph and an effective slider, the sophomore three-straight Pirates down on strikes to get Ole Miss out of the inning unscathed. The three consecutive strikeouts led to a roar from the 9,459 in attendance as the Rebels held on to the one-run lead.
Woolfolk came back out in the ninth to earn the six-out save, striking out two more en route to a perfect outing and locking up a sweep of No. 6 ECU for the Rebels.
The Rebels will be back in action on Tuesday, February 21, when they take on Arkansas State at 4 p.m. for the first Dollar Hot Dog Night of the season. The game can be caught on SEC Network+ with Will Kollmeyer and David Dellucci on the call. For the latest news and updates involving Ole Miss Baseball, follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissBSB, on Facebook at Ole Miss Baseball and on Instagram at olemissbsb.