No. 10 Ole Miss Baseball Falls in Walk-Off to Vanderbilt

Published 7:00 am Friday, May 28, 2021

HOOVER, Ala. – No. 10 Ole Miss baseball battled all the way in the second round of the SEC Tournament, but despite a heroic day from senior captain Tim Elko and terrific performances from Derek Diamond and Jack Dougherty, Vanderbilt ultimately emerged victorious in a 5-4 walk-off defeat for Ole Miss.

Wednesday’s matchup between two of the SEC’s best was a surefire pitcher’s duel between both starting arms in Diamond and Vanderbilt’s Christian Little as just one combined run was mustered between both clubs through five complete.

The Rebels, however, busted it open in the top of the sixth on the first of two homers from Elko, this one a three-run blast and the third since the senior’s return from ACL tear. Vanderbilt stayed even with two of their own in the bottom half, bringing to a close Diamond’s tremendous start after 5.1 IP, just two runs allowed, and eight strikeouts, one off his career high.

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Elko homered once again in the eighth to put the Rebels on top heading into the game’s final frame with freshman Jack Dougherty on the mound, but the Commodores were ultimately able to string together a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth, the final on a RBI single, to walk off the Rebels.

Justin Bench reached in the first inning on a hit-by-pitch for the 24th time this season but was stranded at second. Vanderbilt found even less success in the bottom half as Diamond struck out three straight Commodores to start the game.

The Rebels placed two runners in scoring position in the second, starting with a leadoff single by Tim Elko, but both were stranded. Diamond then used a double play and his fourth strikeout of the ninth to get through the second unscathed.

Bench was once again stranded in scoring position in the third after a one-out single. In the bottom half, Enrique Bradfield logged Vanderbilt’s first hit of the night but was left on first as Diamond upped his strikeout total to five.

Vanderbilt starter Christian Little continued the K parade with three in the fourth, while the Commodore offense broke through in the bottom half. After back-to-back doubles, Tate Kolwyck plated the game’s first run on an RBI single, but Diamond stranded two runners with the score just 1-0.

After his first blemish of the night, Diamond bounced back in a big way, carving through 9-1-2 of the Vanderbilt order behind two strikeouts, setting the stage for a big offensive inning for the Rebels.

Jacob Gonzalez started it with a one-out single, followed by a walk issued to Kevin Graham, bringing the junior’s reached-base streak to the 50-game milestone. Then Tim Elko lifted an opposite-field home run to right, giving the Rebels a 3-1 lead.

Vanderbilt tied it right back up in the bottom half on another Kolwyck RBI single and an RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of CJ Rodriguez. Freshman reliever Jack Dougherty struck out Jayson Gonzalez to escape the jam.

Then, the legend of Elko grew. The Rebel captain launched the go-ahead home run over the left-center wall to give the Rebels a 4-3 lead.

Ole Miss carried that advantage into the ninth, but Vanderbilt found magic late as Dominic Keegan’s RBI single plated Enrique Bradfield as the Commodores secured the walk-off win.

Quick Hits
– Ole Miss falls to 39-18 on the season and 1-1 in the SEC Tournament.
– The Rebels split the season series with Vanderbilt at 2-2, after a series victory earlier in the regular season.
– Ole Miss suffered its first loss of the season (30-1) when leading after eight innings.
– Tim Elko hit his third home run since tearing his ACL on April 5. The Rebel captain also notched his first multi-hit game since the injury.
– Elko tied Graham for the team lead in home runs with 12.
– Elko drove in three-plus runs for the eighth time this season.
– Kevin Graham increased his reached-base streak to 50 games and has reached in 55 of 57 games this season. His is the longest-active reached-base streak in the nation.
– Derek Diamond went five-plus innings for the seventh time this season and struck out eight, one shy of his season-high and his most against SEC competition this season.
– Diamond allowed just two runs in 5.1 innings, his fewest allowed in a start since March 21 vs. Auburn.
– Justin Bench was hit by a pitch for the 24th time this season, moving him two shy of the national lead.
– Jacob Gonzalez struck out multiple times for just the sixth time in 57 games this season.