MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Colby Bortles produced a game-tying double in the top of the ninth to force extra innings, but timely hits in the 11th lifted Memphis to a 2-1 victory over No. 11 Ole Miss Tuesday night at AutoZone Park. The Rebels (14-7) threatened with runners on late in the game, but it was the Tigers (13-7) who claimed the win in walk-off fashion.
Making his first start of the season, Sean Johnson was efficient in a limited outing. The redshirt-senior allowed only one run on two hits and one walk over 4.0 innings. Sophomore Connor Green was effective out of the bullpen, tossing a season-high 2.2 innings and not giving up a run.
Memphis got four of its nine hits from center fielder Tyler Webb, while first baseman Trent Turner knocked in both of the team’s runs. Starting pitcher Jonathan Bowlan went 8.1 innings before allowing the tying run in the ninth, and Hunter Smith (1-0) got the win in relief.
Johnson made quick work of the Tigers through the first three innings, allowing only one hit and one walk while keeping the home team off the scoreboard. However, Bowlan forced groundball after groundball from Ole Miss hitters to continue the pitcher’s duel.
The Tigers broke through in the bottom of the fourth as a leadoff double plus a wild ball four put runners on the corners with one out. During the next at-bat, Johnson got the grounder he needed, but it wasn’t enough for a double play. The RBI groundout put Memphis ahead 1-0 after four completed frames.
In the top of the sixth, Memphis planned to increase its advantage with back-to-back base hits to start the inning. The spark forced head coach Mike Bianco to call on Green out of the bullpen, and the sophomore got the job done. First, Green issued a groundball double play before getting another Tiger to pop up in foul territory, ending the threat without Memphis adding any runs.
The game remained at 1-0 until Bortles provided the game-tying double with one out in the top of the ninth. Blackman started the inning, reaching base after being hit by a pitch. Two batters later, his fellow captain ripped a double down the line in left field. Blackman rolled all the way around the bases before sliding into home to tie the contest, 1-1. Ole Miss continued the inning by putting runners on first and second, trying to grab the lead. However, Golsan’s liner was snagged by a diving second baseman, leading to a double play. After Ole Miss was inches away from taking control of the game, Ryan Rolison came back out to pitch the ninth inning and retired the side to force extra innings.
In the 10th, Cockrell nearly homered for the second time on the night. The first time, he hit one to the warning track in the left-center gap that was caught. This time, the first baseman belted a ball that ricocheted off the wall for a double. Once again, Memphis got out of the inning.
The Tigers put two runners on with one out in the 11th, setting the stage for Turner. The first baseman found a hole up the middle past the outstretched Blackman, bringing the runner from second across the plate and ending the game.
Ole Miss remains on the road, traveling further north to battle Kentucky in the first road conference series of the season. The three-game set begins Thursday night (March 23) at 6 p.m. on SEC Network. Game two of the series will take place at 5:30 p.m. Friday evening (March 24) before the two teams wrap up the weekend Saturday morning (March 25) at 11 a.m. on SEC Network. All three games can be heard on the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network with David Kellum and Keith Kessinger on the call.