OXFORD, Miss. — Stetson took full advantage of a final opportunity to make a statement in the Hatters’ weekend series at Mississippi, clubbing the 24th-ranked Rebels 16-4 in the series finale on Sunday.
The Hatters (8-8) used a pair of six-run innings, sandwiched around a four-run frame to rout Ole Miss (8-6).
Stetson’s big offensive game came after it went down in order through the first three frames against Mississippi starting pitcher Sam Smith (0-2).
“We swung the bats well today,” Hatters coach Pete Dunn said. “We didn’t start out real well, dropping a couple of fly balls, but we recovered from that and we got out of some jams early defensively. I think that picked us up because they could have scored a lot of runs early, but we got a double-play ball when we needed it.”
Ole Miss got on the board first in the game, scoring a single run in the opening inning against freshman starter Ben Onyshko. Kyle Watson led off the game with a single for the Rebels. After he stole second and third, Colby Bartles hit a smash back to Onyshko so hard that it stunned the lefthander. His indecision led to the run scoring and Bortles being credited with a hit.
After hitting the next batter to load the bases, Onyshko got out of the jam by getting an inning-ending double play.
The Hatters broke on top in the fourth inning, chasing Smith — the first of seven hurlers for the Rebels in the game — in the process. Stetson sent 10 men to the plate in the inning, with the big blows being a two-out, three-run double by Vance Vizcaino and two batters later, a two-run double by Kyle Pitts.
“I am real happy with the way we swung the bats,” Dunn said. “We kept pressure on them, and that is the thing. We didn’t sit on it after we had that six-run inning, and that is good. When you are on the road playing a team that is this good, there are never enough runs.”
The Rebels threatened to have a big inning of their own in the bottom of the fourth. Bortles started the inning with a high bloop behind first base that neither first baseman Will Mackenzie or Pitts at second could get to. The play was ruled a double and gave the Rebels a start.
Onyshko walked the next two Ole Miss hitters to load the bases before turning things over to junior Josh Thorne (1-0). A sacrifice fly plated a run for the Rebels, but Thorne got a foul out and then struck out Rebels leadoff hitter Kyle Watson to leave the bases loaded.
“We got out of that inning with just one run when he came in with the bases loaded and no one out,” Dunn said. “That was one of those damage control innings. You have to minimize the big innings and for Thorne to come in and get out of that only allowing one run was a big pick-me-up.
“I wanted to stay with Onyshko, but he didn’t have command today. Against a team like this, you can’t pitch from behind and Ben did that too much. He was frustrated because he has better command than that, but he didn’t have it today. We have to keep running him out there because he is going to be an outstanding pitcher for us. He is a freshman and he has to learn. I think he learned something today and will be better for it.”
Stetson went right back to work in the fifth inning, scoring four more runs, three of which came on a home run by Garrett Russini. The fourth run of the inning came after Cory Reid dropped down a perfect bunt and advanced to second on a throwing error by Bortles. He scored on a two-out single by Mackenzie.
The Rebels got two runs back in the seventh when J.B. Woodman hit a two-run homer off Ben Rakus, who worked the final three innings of the game for his first career save.
The Hatters put the game away in the eighth inning, scoring six more runs. Patrick Mazeika’s three-run homer off Michael Babb was the big blow, but Vizcaino delivered two more runs on a ball up the middle that was originally ruled a hit, but was later changed to an error and then Colton Lightner doubled in another run.
“We keep saying that we are a better team, certainly better than what we showed yesterday,” Dunn said. “The biggest thing is consistency. We came back from two tough losses to win this one. Now we have to go right back into a ranked teams’ environment.”