STARKVILLE, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics) – The Rebels jumped out to an early lead and used solid pitching and defense to hold the Bulldogs in check as No. 13 Ole Miss (28-8, 8-5 SEC) defeated No. 13 Mississippi State (21-14, 6-7 SEC) by a score of 6-1 in the series opener Friday night.
Five Rebels notched multiple hits on the night with Braxton Lee and Sikes Orvis each driving in a pair of runs to help pace the Ole Miss offense. Errol Robinson also went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, while Brantley Bell and Auston Bousfield also each tallied two hits on the night.
Chris Ellis (5-0) picked up the win, allowing one run on eight hits with a walk and two strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work. Wyatt Short then picked up his third save, working the final 2.1 innings with two hits and three strikeouts while holding the Bulldogs off the board.
Ross Mitchell (5-3) took the loss for Mississippi State, allowing six runs on 13 hits with two walks and five strikeouts through 8.2 innings of work.
“Chris (Ellis) was terrific tonight and his stuff was perhaps as good as it’s been in the last three or four weeks, though it may not have looked like it,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “Mississippi State is good at drawing walks and they really made him work out there tonight, but he was able to buckle down and make pitches when we needed them.
“Wyatt (Short) was great and it was good for a Mississippi kid to come in and finish things off like that for us on a Friday night,” Bianco said. “It was also big to not have to use our closer. We’re playing well and really played well tonight in all phases of the game.”
Ole Miss got on the board in the first inning, putting together a two-out rally to take the early lead on the Bulldogs. With men at the corners, Bell laced a single through the left side to bring Bousfield home from third and leave men at first and second. Orvis then drove a ball back up the middle to score Allen from second as the Rebels took a 2-0 lead before Mississippi State would get out of the inning.
The Rebels continued to build on the lead in the second inning when Lee drove a double to the gap in right center to bring home Robinson from second. Robinson opened the inning with a single to right and took second on a sac bunt from Will Jamison to set up the score on the Lee hit. Ole Miss led 3-0 after the second inning of play.
Mississippi State put together a rally in the third inning, using a bloop single to right and a single up the middle that glanced off the glove of a sliding Robinson to put men at the corners to start things. Alex Detz delivered a ground-out RBI to short following a foul fly from Jake Vickerson to get the Bulldogs on the board. Detz was out at first on the play, but Matthew Britton slid in safely at second before the Rebel defense could get there to avoid the double play.
The Rebels got out of the inning with a fly ball to center and held to the 3-1 lead on the Bulldogs after three complete.
Ole Miss answered the Mississippi State rally with one of its own, pushing the lead out to four runs in the fourth inning with some solid hitting early. A single and a balk pushed Preston Overbey to second before Robinson pulled one through the left side as the Bulldogs ran with a defensive shift. Overbey then came home on a groundout from Jamison as Robinson advanced to second. Lee then drove a double into left field to score Robinson and the Rebels held a 5-1 lead after the top half of the fourth.
Mississippi State looked to put together a second rally in the game in the eighth inning, using a fielding error on a pop fly to second to put a man on base. A strikeout put two away before a single to right put two men on base for the Bulldogs. Overbey then snagged a line drive flaring away from second for the final out and kept the Rebels on top 5-1 after eight innings.
The senior second baseman figured prominently in the inning, also recording the first out on a single to left. Mississippi State’s Brett Pirtle tried to stretch the hit into a double and was met at the bag by a diving Overbey who snagged the throw from Lee and tagged Pirtle for the first out in the inning.
The Rebels extended the lead in the ninth, putting together a two-out rally sparked by Allen. Allen reached on a single through the left side before Bell was hit by a pitch. Orvis then drove a ball to right, scoring Allen from second and putting men at the corners as Mississippi State went to the bullpen for right-hander Myles Gentry.
Gentry then got a groundout to end the inning, but Ole Miss had staked a claim to a 6-1 lead.
Shot then kept the Bulldogs off the board in the ninth, recording a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to secure the win for the Rebels.
Ole Miss and Mississippi State will take the field for game two of the series at 3 p.m. Saturday in a game televised by Fox Sports South.