OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics) – The Rebels got a pair of home runs in the first inning to stake a claim to an early lead and held on down the stretch as No. 14 Ole Miss (19-4, 2-2 SEC) opened the weekend series with a 4-3 win over Missouri (11-10, 1-3 SEC) Friday night at Swayze Field.
Austin Anderson hit a two-run shot in the first and Sikes Orvis added a solo home run to take the early 3-0 lead on the Tigers and the Rebels never trailed on the way to the series-opening win.
Chris Ellis (4-0) picked up the win, working 7.1 innings and allowing one unearned run on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Josh Laxer picked up the save, allowing one hit and striking out three batters over the final 1.2 innings after the Tigers had cut the lead to one-run in the eighth.
“Josh (Laxer) was terrific, and I’m really proud of him,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “He’s done that basically the whole year. We didn’t want to go to him that early. With a 4-1 lead, we were hoping to extend the lead. We looked like we were in pretty good control of it, but it spiraled out very quickly. Three hitters later the winning run was coming to the play, so we had to go to Josh with an out in the eighth. You can’t be much better than what he did.
“Chris (Ellis) had his best outing in three or four weeks,” Bianco said. “He had really good command on all three pitches and got ahead of a lot of hitters. He got a little frustrated at times not being able to finish guys off, but that’s okay. He was ahead and put them defensive in a lot of at bats because he took control of the first and second pitch.”
John Miles (2-2) took the loss for the Tigers, allowing four runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts in 7.1 innings of work. The right-hander was inserted into the starting lineup after Brett Graves, who was originally slated to start, was hit by a ball on an errant throw in pregame warm-ups.
The Rebels got off to the quick start with the pair of home runs in the first inning to take the 3-0 lead. Braxton Lee reached on a one-out single before Anderson drove him in with a two-run shot over the wall in right field. Two batters later, Orvis delivered his solo shot over the wall in right to put the home team up 3-0 on the Tigers.
Ole Miss added a fourth run in the third inning on an RBI single to right from Will Allen. Allen’s single drove in Bousfield from third after the junior opened the inning with a double to the wall in left center and took third on a bunt single from Lee.
The Tigers cut into the lead for the first time with an unearned run in the fifth when Keaton Steele came home from third on a passed ball with two outs. Steele opened the inning with a double and took third on a single from Logan Pearson before the passed ball got him home.
Missouri cut the lead to one in the eighth inning, pushing two more runs across the plate.
Ellis struck out the first batter before the Rebels went to the bullpen for left-hander Wyatt Short. Back-to-back doubles off the freshman brought the first run home and Ole Miss again turned to the bullpen for Preston Tarkington. A single to the next batter brought the second run home and the Rebels called on Laxer out of the bullpen.
The junior right-hander got the Rebels out of the inning, recording a strikeout and a runner thrown out on a steal attempt to send the game to the home half of the eighth on top 4-3. Laxer then kept the Tigers off the board in the ninth to close out the win.
Ole Miss and Missouri will return to the field for game two of the series at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.