Ole Miss takes Tennessee’s opener in walk-off mode

Anna Borgen and Sydney Gutierrez kiss during the Rebels’ victory over Tennessee on Saturday. (Photo: OMA)

It went to the literal wire, but Ole Miss beat the Tennessee Lady Vols 5-4 on Saturday in Oxford, winning Game 1 of a crucial SEC best-three series. The win improved Ole Miss to 35-14 overall and 9-10 in SEC play. Tennessee fell to 34-15 and 11-8 in the league.

Ole Miss led 4-2 in the lead in the seventh before Lady Vols broke through a pair of runs to tie the game. Starting pitcher Ole Miss Anna Borgen, who worked 6.1 innings, but after striking out the first batter of the inning, she allowed a solo home run to Ivy Davis and her day was over. Ole Miss head coach Jamie Trachsel brought in freshman pitcher Catelyn Riley, whose father was the starting center for the Tennessee national championship team in 1998, to thwart the Vols. Riley, however, ran into a bit of a glitch, walking twice and giving up two hits, allowing the tying base hit to go off Zaida Puni’s at-bat before finally going out the inning.

This brought the Rebels to the plate in a 4-4 game in the bottom of the seventh. After KK Esparza pulled out to start the frame, Tate Whitley and Bre Roper delivered back-to-back singles. That brought Abbey Latham to home plate who appeared to hit in a 6-4-3 double play in the bottom of the inning. The bang-bang, first called, however, was called for review by the referee team and was reversed, leaving Ole Miss with runners at first and third with two outs.

That brought Riley to the plate, who on a 0-1 count, lined up a single seeing eye through the right side of the infield to score Whitley and give the Rebels a 5-4 victory.

“It was a great moment to put the rookie in there (in the top of the seventh),” Trachsel said. “Obviously we have a lot of faith in her, but it was still a great moment. Maybe if we make a different decision about it, it will turn out differently… But we found a way to win (Pitching coach) Ryker (Chason) said it. The good thing for pitchers who hit is that they can actually turn it around and help themselves. Turns out she had a chance in round seven to change what had just happened, and she just did. It was a big moment for a freshman and she got away with it.

It was the Rebels’ sixth straight win and fourth straight win in SEC play.

“That win was huge. It’s huge. It gives us a chance to win the series. That’s always our goal. We just found a way to win. It wasn’t our cleanest game, but a thing we did today was a little bit different from our previous games is we were so resilient we didn’t snowball too much where we couldn’t come back from that we had two leads two points and we came back from that and I think that speaks to the character and the tenacity of this team and the kind of resilience of this team,” Trachsel recounted.

Ole Miss took an early 2-0 lead early in the first when Paige Smith ripped a two-run double down center right as she tackled Riley and Latham.

Tennessee responded with two runs in the fourth to tie the game 2-2.

Ole Miss, however, wasted no time getting back in front, this time on a solo home run from Smith late in the fourth to advance 3-2. The Rebels increased the lead to 4-2 in the fifth on an RBI brace from Roper that scored Whitley.

Tennessee then tied the game 4-4 in the top of the seventh, leading to the Rebels’ final batting exploits.

Riley (11-3) picked up the win with his brief two-out run in the top of the seventh. Borgen got the no-decision decision, allowing three runs (one earned) in 6.1 innings of work.

Ryliegh White (2-2) suffered the loss in the circle for the Lady Vols.

Whitley, Roper and Smith each had two hits to lead Ole Miss’ offense. Smith finished the game with three RBIs.

Both teams are back on Sunday with the first pitch scheduled for 5:00 p.m. CT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network, as the Rebels attempt to win the series.


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