Ole Miss struggled all night but finally got the lead in the seventh inning against Kentucky. Then turned around and gave it all right back as the Wildcats opened the series with a 3-2 victory.
“Not a good night for us. I didn’t think we played very well,” saidOle Miss head coach Mike Bianco after his team fell to 30-13 overall and 10-9 in Southeastern Conference play.
Bianco gave credit to the Kentucky starter, A.J. Reed, for his team’s offensive woes in this one.
“He was terrific,” Bianco said. “We just couldn’t get to his fast ball for whatever reason.”
Bianco alluded to the fact that the Rebels took a step back to where they were two weeks ago instead of the last two weekends where they swept both Alabama and Tennessee.
“We just looked different than we have the last couple of weeks where we’ve gotten a lot better swings off,” Bianco said. “For some reason we couldn’t do that tonight.”
Still, the Rebels gave themselves a chance with at least a little offense late.
“We were able to scratch a couple of runs across there in the bottom of the seventh,” Bianco said. “When you don’t play well and you’re in position to win, it’s obviously disappointing when you are not able to close it out. That’s uncharacteristic for us. We normally can finish it with the bullpen, but we didn’t today.”
A solo home run in the first into the UK bullpen by Austin Cousino gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead. In the third, Kentucky got the first two runners on as nine-hole hitter Greg Fettes doubled to right, then Wahl walked leadoff batter Kyle Barrett. A popup by Cousino to Andrew Mistone at third base was the first out. Then A.J. Reed hit onto a double play to end the Wildcat threat.
Wahl got into more trouble in the fourth, hitting the first batter, J.T. Riddle, and Zac Zellers reached with an error on shortstop Austin Anderson. After Paul McConkey struck out, a ball hit to Mistone by Max Kuhn got a double play started as Mistone threw to Christian Helsel at second who relayed to Preston Overbey at first.
In the bottom of the fifth, Helsel got aboard with a one-out walk. After Will Allen fly out to center field, Will Jamison was safe at first on a bunt. But Tanner Mathis grounded out to end the Ole Miss threat.
Mistone reached second base as the leadoff batter in the Rebels’ important seventh. A throwing error from UK third baseman Kuhn allowed him to motor into scoring position. Preston Overbey sac bunted him to third. Helsel’s fly ball to shallow center got Mistone home to tie the game.
Will Allen reached on a base hit to keep the seventh alive. Cameron Dishon came in to pinch run for Allen and immediately stole second. Knight had a 2-2 count when UK changed pitchers.
Knight walked and Lance Wilson came in to run for him. Tanner Mathis singled to the shortstop but beat out the throw to score Dishon and give Ole Miss a 2-1 lead. An Anderson pop up left Wilson stranded at third.
Aaron Greenwood came in for Wahl to start the eighth, and immediately gave up a double. Before the inning was done, Greenwood was gone, Matt Denny came in to replace him, and Tanner Bailey came in to finish things up. By then Kentucky had the lead back 3-2.
Mistone gave the Rebels a chance to tie the game with a two-out double in the eighth. But Sikes Orvis came in to pinch hit for Overbey and struck out to end the inning.
Wahl gave up the lone run on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts. And he blamed himself for the loss, although Greenwood was saddled with it, not to fall to 3-2.
“I’ll be the first to admit, I pitched terribly tonight. I didn’t have any of my stuff tonight, and it’s frustrating,” Wahl said.
Chandler Shepherd came in for the final 2.1 innings to close it out for UK. He got the win and is 3-0.
Mathis said Reed was too good on this night.
“He was putting his fast ball where he wanted it to, and he was spotting up with his curve ball, and his fast ball had some run on it,” he said. “He dumped that curve ball in there early and with two strikes he’d bury it late.”
Kentucky snapped a seven-game losing streak with the win and is now 25-16 overall and 8-11 in the SEC.
Game two is Friday at 6:30 p.m.
— Jeff Roberson, OMSpirit.com