Ryan Rolison needed some sort of pick-me-up.
After a less than perfect start Saturday night – the sophomore southpaw giving up solo runs in the first and second inning to Saint Louis – the pick-me-up came in the bottom of the second frame.
Ole Miss’ six-run second inning did more than give the No. 4 national seed a four-run cushion. It allowed Rolison the chance to turn the night into something special.
And he did. The Jackson, Tennessee native finished with a career-high 13 strikeouts in seven full innings of work as Ole Miss (47-15) thumped Saint Louis (38-19) 9-2 at Swayze Field in the Oxford regional.
“I thought he found another gear after the second inning when they scored,” said Saint Louis head coach Darin Hendrickson. “I thought he went to a different level and started looking like a Friday night starter, so tip your cap to him.”
“I think it was a little bit of adrenaline. I was rushing it a little bit and kept the balls elevated. They were able to get their barrel to it,” Rolison said. “Coach [Mike Bianco] came and talked to me. He could see I was rushing a little. I had to go back to just pitching and relaxing and do what I do best.”
Seven of the nine Rebel batters recorded base hits in the win, including multiple hits by its No. 2 and 3 hitters, Ryan Olenek and Nick Fortes.
Cole Zabowski tied the game (2-2) in the second inning on a two-run home run over the wall in centerfield.
“We just did a good job of coming out and putting good ABs together,” said Zabowski. “That was the goal the whole time, to just pass the baton to the next guy, and we got ahold of [Saint Louis] in that second inning.”
Chase Cockrell, Jacob Adams and Olenek added RBI on hits for its third, fourth and fifth run in the inning. Olenek later scored on a Saint Louis error to round out the six-run stanza.
In the third, Tyler Keenen smashed a two-run bomb near the same place Zabowski did just the inning before. Ole Miss led 8-2 at that point.
Thomas Dillard rounded out the scoring with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the fourth. His deep fly ball fell a few feet short of a would-be grand slam.
Ole Miss will face Tennessee Tech, arguably one of the best offensive teams in the nation, on Sunday in the winner’s bracket. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. and will follow the losers bracket matchup between Saint Louis and Missouri State.
“We expect to see one of the best offenses in the country, obviously,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “There’s some crazy numbers. Throughout the lineup, it’s a lot like us, where it’s not just from a couple of guys. Throughout the lineup, all nine starters hit over .300, six with double-digit home runs. It’s going to take a real good effort on the mound [from us].”