While the Tennessee baseball team was in the 11th hour of its SEC Tournament hopes, Ole Miss slugger Matt Snyder pushed the clock to midnight for the Volunteers on a rainy Saturday evening in Oxford.
Snyder stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 11th inning with Ole Miss and Tennessee locked in a 4-4 tie and promptly delivered an 0-1 offering from UT pitcher Drew Steckenrider over the right field wall. The 3-run, walk-off homer from Snyder gave Ole Miss a 7-4 victory and clinched the Rebels a spot in the SEC Tournament.
Alex Yarbrough was intentionally walked by UT to get to Snyder, whose roundtripper scored Tanner Mathis and Yarbrough. It was the second time in the game that Tennessee chose to walk Yarbrough to pitch to Snyder.
Tennessee entered the day faced with having to win its remaining five SEC games and was mathematically eliminated from the conference tourney with the loss.
It was a day of home run heroics for the Rebels.
Ole Miss trailed Tennessee 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth. The Rebels got the lead-off runner on first in the form of Austin Anderson. Head coach Mike Bianco then decided to pinch hit for Will Jamison, bringing Sykes Orvis to the plate. Orvis hopped on the first pitch from Steckenrider and deposited into the UT bullpen behind the right field fence to tie the game 4-4 and force the extra innings.
Tennessee never trailed in the game until Snyder’s fatal, 11th-inning blow.
The Volunteers scratched across single runs in each of the first, third and fourth innings to take a 3-0 lead. The Rebels cut the margin to 3-2 after seven, with an RBI-single from Jamison and run-scoring grounder from Mathis.
UT added what looked to be an insurance run on a solo homer off the bat of Ethan Bennett in the top of the ninth.
Tanner Mathis pounded out two hits on Saturday in the win over Tennessee.
Ole Miss starter Mike Mayers was relieved after four innings of work.
It was Tanner Bailer who went to work on the Volunteer lineup to give the Rebels a chance. Bailey turned in five innings of marvelous middle-relief work, allowing just one run on one hit, walking two and striking out three.
Brett Huber earned the win in relief, closing down the Volunteers in the 10th and 11th innings. The final line on Huber was no runs on one hit, one walk and strike out. Huber improved to 2-2 on the season.
Steckenrider (4-6) took the loss on the mound for UT.
Mathis and Anderson each finished with two hits for the Rebels.
Ole Miss improved to 33-18 overall and to .500 in SEC play at 13-13.
Depending on action in other games tomorrow and the outcome of the finale at Swayze Field between Ole Miss and Tennessee, the Rebels could leave the weekend in second place inside the SEC Western Division.
Arkansas lost to Auburn on Saturday, moving Ole Miss ahead of the Razorbacks in the standings. No final had been reported between Mississippi State and Florida as of this writing, but a Gator win would give the Rebels sole possession of second place in the West heading into Sunday’s play.
Snyder leads the SEC in RBIs this season.