HOOVER, Ala. – Ole Miss and Alabama faced elimination on Thursday in the SEC Tournament, and it was the Crimson Tide that stood taller with a 7-5 victory.
“It’s always disappointing to finish here without advancing to the weekend,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said, his team now 37-22 on the season and most likely a No. 2 seed on the road next weekend in a NCAA Regional. “But it’s the No. 1 baseball conference in the country. If you don’t play well, you lose. We had opportunities the last two days.”
But the Rebels lost to Arkansas 2-1 Wednesday after defeating Kentucky 4-1 Tuesday morning. And now they await the NCAA Tournament announcement, which is at 11 a.m. (CDT) Monday.
Bianco said Rebel junior ace Bobby Wahl was set to start the Friday game had there been one for Ole Miss.
“Bobby would have started tomorrow. Now we’ll have to figure out what we’ll do,” he said of moving forward with Wahl and actually all the pitchers to try to get them back into a rotation similar to the regular season prior to the last two weekends. “He needed the rest, and unfortunately we didn’t get to stay here long enough to get him in a game. Not pitching I don’t think will be a bad thing for him at all.”
Thursday’s game was tied 5-5 after the Rebels scored two runs late to eventually send it into extra innings. Ole Miss trailed 5-3 when the Rebels loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
Tide starter, RHP Spencer Turnbull, was pulled and RHP Mitch Greer came in to pitch. He immediately gave up a two-RBI double to Stuart Turner to tie the game 5-5.
Then in the eighth after Bama didn’t score, Auston Bousfield drew a walk to lead things off. Cameron Dishon came in to pinch hit for Sikes Orvis as Alabama changed pitchers, this time going to RHP Tucker Hawley. Dishon sac bunted Bousfield to second. Preston Overbey was then intentionally walked.
But a key moment was about to go against the Rebels. Will Allen was up next, pinch hitting for Christian Helsel. Allen lined out to a leaping Alabama third baseman Kenny Roberts, who threw to first to get Overbey out for the double play to keep things tied after eight innings.
It remained that way until the tenth inning when Alabama got a one-out walk by Kyle Overstreet off Tanner Bailey. That was followed by a double down the third base line by Ben Moore. Brett Huber was then called upon to relieve Bailey.
But Mikey White then got a two-RBI double, the first batter off Huber. That made it 7-5 and the Rebels had to overcome the disadvantage in the bottom of the tenth, which they were not able to do.
Ole Miss started freshman right-hander Jacob Waguespack and he was able to put up three innings of three up, three down baseball to Crimson Tide hitters. But in the fourth, with Ole Miss already leading 3-0, he allowed two runs and was relieved by Scott Weathersby.
Waguespack had an arm injury earlier in the year, and it has taken much of the season to recover.
“I felt good,” he said. I fell behind some counts. My defense did a great job behind me. I just tried to pound the zone and get some ground balls and get out of some innings.”
Waguespack said he’s glad to be contributing at this point in the season after a long road back.
“I’m just out there trying to do my job,” he said. “That’s out of the bullpen or whenever (Bianco) wants to start me. I’m just looking to contribute and get better every day. My arm keeps getting better every day. I just couldn’t get out of that (fourth) inning.”
“I’m certainly proud of his effort,” Bianco said of Waguespack. “We knew he would challenge them. We knew he would throw the ball into the strike zone without fear. He deserved (to start). He’s pitched well every time out. He’s getting stronger and he’s going to be a good one.”
The Rebels had gotten the early lead with three runs in the second. Andrew Mistone led things off with a double. After Auston Bousfield struck out, Sikes Orvis got Mistone to third with a groundout. Preston Overbey’s double to the left corner got Mistone home and gave Ole Miss a 1-0 lead.
Christian Helsel then walked, followed by Jamison’s single and an Alabama error that scored two more runs.
Alabama, now 34-25 on the season, scored five runs from the fourth through sixth innings before Ole Miss was able to tie it up in the seventh. — Jeff Roberson, OMSpirit.com