OXFORD- The Force was with the Rebels on Star Wars Night at Swayze Field as No. 7 Ole Miss blasted Arkansas-Pine Bluff 12-1. Right-handed pitcher Chad Smith posted a career-high 11 strikeouts on the night to help propel the Rebels (34-12) over the Golden Lions (17-22).
With the win, Ole Miss improved to 22-3 in non-conference games and 11-2 in midweek matchups. Head coach Mike Bianco also collected his 400th victory at Swayze Field.
Smith (4-4) had an outstanding night on the mound. Along with recording a new career high in strikeouts, the junior surrendered just one unearned run on four hits over 7.0 innings, which ties a career-long outing. Freshman Andrew Lowe pitched the last two innings, retiring all six batters he faced and striking out three of them.
The Rebels, coached by Mike Bianco, earned a total of 10 hits on the night with three batters earning multi-hit games. Errol Robinson, Ryan Olenek and Kyle Watson had two hits apiece and at least two RBI. Robinson extended his hitting streak to 11 games and knocked in a team-high three runs. Freshman Nic Fortes scored three runs to lead the Rebels and tally a new career high.
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Senior right-handed pitcher Humberto Medina (4-5) started on the mound for UAPB and suffered the loss after the Rebels tallied three earned runs off the pitcher. Second baseman Aderly Perez had a multi-hit game going 2-for-3 for half of the Golden Eagles' hits.
After walking the first Golden Eagle, Smith settled in and used five straight strikes to retire three hitters and leave the first inning scoreless. In the bottom of the second inning, back-to-back walks put Colby Bortles and Henri Lartigue on first and second. Golsan executed his job by laying down a sacrifice bunt to move the two runners over before Fortes walked to load the bases for the Rebels. With ducks on the pond, Watson's sacrifice fly plated Bortles for the first run of the game. Flipping back to the top of the order, Robinson ripped a triple to right field and cleared the bases to put Ole Miss ahead 3-0.
Smith posted another scoreless inning before the Rebels added another run in the bottom of the third. Blackman led off the inning with a single up the middle. With two down, Golsan's single to left field sent Blackman across the dish for the fourth Ole Miss run.
The Rebels tallied two more in the bottom frame of the fourth. Watson reached first on a single to right field, but Robinson hit into a fielder's choice resulting Watson to be called out at second base. Olenek followed with a single of his own and advanced to second on the throw while moving Robinson over to third base. For the seventh time this season, Blackman hit a sacrifice fly and extended the Rebel lead to 5-0. Woodman continued his hot streak with a RBI single through the right side to give Ole Miss a six-run cushion.
Smith went out in the fifth inning and struck out the side, adding to his strikeout tally. He cruised through the sixth as well, keeping UAPB off the scoreboard.
The Golden Eagles scored their first run of the game in the seventh inning, taking advantage of a Rebel miscue. After reaching on a throwing error, Dontre Brown scored on an RBI groundout to shortstop.
The Rebels responded with two runs of their own in the seventh. Fortes walked before Robinson singled to second base. A throwing error on the play allowed both Rebel runners to move up 90 feet and into scoring position. With two outs, Olenek ripped a two-RBI single up the middle to make it an 8-1 game.
Lowe entered the game on the mound in the eighth inning. The right-handed pitcher posted a smooth 1-2-3 inning with the help of his defense. In their final plate appearance, the Rebels continued to score more runs. With the bases loaded, Watson reached on a fielder's choice before a throwing error at second base allowed the Rebels to round the bases. All three runners scored and Watson scampered to third base. Robinson added a sacrifice fly to score the final Rebel run, and Lowe retired the side in the ninth to cap the 12-1 win.