Ole Miss needed a series win to keep up the solid momentum the Rebels had gained in the Southeastern Conference the past two weekends with sweeps of Alabama and Tennessee. The Rebels didn’t get it. Saturday’s series finale was a 5-4 UK win.
Kentucky, as reeling as any team in the SEC coming in and seven straight losses, left Oxford with two wins and still a losing league record at 9-12. Ole Miss is 11-10 and is mired as one of those teams in the middle of the pack somewhere.
The Rebels, 31-14 overall, actually have a better road record than home record this season in the SEC. They have five home wins in 12 games and six road wins in nine games. Next weekend they travel to Auburn.
The following two weeks they face two of the league’s better teams – Mississippi State at home and LSU on the road.
The Kentucky series was one, by all accounts, they had to have to really stay on a roll toward May. But they didn’t get it.
“A disappointing day in a lot of phases,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “When you look back at the weekend, two one-run losses, two games we had leads in the seventh or the eighth both games and couldn’t hold on. We’re been real good in the bullpen but weren’t today. You can’t give them that many opportunities in a tie game or one-run game. You’ve got to be able to field the bunts and get out of the inning. And we couldn’t.”
That inning, the killer for the Rebels, came in the top of the eighth. UK had tied the game 3-3 in the seventh. A.J. Reed singled. J.T. Riddle bunted and reached when Matt Denny was charged with a throwing error.
Tanner Bailey came in for Denny. Zac Zellers bunted and reached when Bailey tried to get the lead runner, Reed, at third but threw the ball away to make it 4-3. The Wildcats were set up for a big inning and had one. At least a big enough one.
After Greg Fettes was intentionally walked, Kuhn singled to get another run home and make it 5-3 UK.
“He’s a good pitcher,” Allen said of UK starter Littrell, now 5-3. “He’s in and out of the zone but in there enough to keep you guessing. He did a good job.”
“Offensively it looked like we were going to get to Littrell early but then we had a lull and he showed why he’s so good,” Bianco said. Turner’s RBI single in the first inning game Ole Miss a 1-0 lead. But Kentucky tied in the top of the second on a RBI single by Max Kuhn.
After the Wildcats went up 2-1 in the fourth, the Rebels responded to take a 3-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run Austin Anderson home run to right. Sam Smith had departed in the fifth after another good showing. Aaron Greenwood, who didn’t have it Thursday night, came in again and struggled somewhat again, allowing a run on four hits with three strikeouts in 10 batters faced. It was 3-3 when he left the game.
The Rebels, down 5-3 in the ninth, made a run of it against UK reliever Trevor Gott. Turner singled, Mistone lined out, and Holt Perdzock doubled to put runners at second and third.
Sikes Orvis flew out to deep center on a 3-0 count to get one run home. Allen struck out looking and the series was lost.
Anderson said despite the bullpen not coming through as it had the past few weeks, they still believe in them.
“It’s baseball. It’s tough. It hurts. Our bullpen’s been great all year,” he said. “We’re not really worried about it with our bullpen. We’re still confident.”
Allen said the Rebels are disappointed to have lost such a critical series at home.
“We expect to win every weekend,” he said. “Playing here definitely helps out.”
The record, however shows differently. With two road series left, maybe that’s for the best.
“There’s a big important part of the season coming up,” Allen said. “We just kind of need to fix up any mistakes and move on.”
With not the momentum and record they hoped for, or needed, however.
Next up is Saint Louis on Wednesday in Oxford.
— Jeff Roberson, OMSpirit.com