OXFORD, Miss. (WDAM) - Through the opening-season stretch of the 2020 baseball schedule, the University of Southern Mississippi had proved to be the master of the close game, with four wins coming by one run.
Tuesday afternoon at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field, 13th-ranked University of Mississippi flipped the script on the Golden Eagles.
Hayden Leatherwood’s pinch-hit, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning proved the difference as the Rebels held off USM, 4-3.
The Golden Eagles had runners on first and third with one out in the top of the ninth inning, but Ole Miss’ sixth pitcher of the game, Braden Forsyth, got back-to-back strikeouts to pick up his second save of the season.
All told, USM would wind up stranding 12 baserunners, including leaving the bases loaded with two outs in both the second and fifth innings.
The Golden Eagles finished with seven hits and coaxed six walks off Rebels’ pitching, but struck out 11 times.
In its first road trip of the season, USM (6-1) had erased a 2-0 deficit with single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, taking a 3-2 lead on Will McGillis’ solo home run to lead off the top of the seventh.
It marked the second time in three games since returning from an opening-game hamstring tweak that McGillis put up a three-hit game with a home run.
Ole Miss (7-1) answered in the bottom of the inning. Justin Bench drew a leadoff walk, and one out later, Leatherwood sent the first pitch he saw from USM reliever Matt Adams (0-1) over the right-filed fence for his second homer of the season.
Adams and USM starter Drew Boyd had limited a potent Rebel offense to two runs through six innings.
Boyd, the former Oak Grove High school standout, allowed two runs on four hits over four innings in his first career start. He was tapped for both runs in the bottom of the third inning on Peyton Chatagnier’s double and Tyler Keenan’s single.
Boyd did not walk a batter and struck out three.
USM got a run back in the fifth inning on an RBI-single by McGillis, then pulled even in the sixth inning when Fisher Norris forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk.
Adams went three innings, allowing two runs on Leatherwood’s home, which was the only hit he surrendered. He walked one and struck out six.
Isaiah Rhodes worked the eighth inning, striking out one. All told, the three USM pitchers _ two freshmen and a redshirt sophomore _ allowed four runs on five hits in nine innings, walking one and striking out 10.
Austin Miller (2-0) picked up the victory, allowing a run on a hit in two innings. He walked two and struck out four.
McGillis went 3-for-5 with two RBIs for USM, while Hunter LeBlanc finished with a double and single.
Keenan was 2-for-4 with a run knocked in for the Rebels.
USM will head to Lake Charles, La., this weekend for a four-game, round-robin, starting off with a 2 p.m. Friday game with Valparaiso University.
The Golden Eagles are scheduled to take on Valparaiso again at 1 p.m. Saturday before playing host McNeese State University at 4 p.m. USM will meeting McNeese State at 1 p.m. Sunday before heading back to Hattiesburg.