It was a wild night that saw two of the top pitchers in the Southeastern Conference struggle early as No. 9 Ole Miss (21-6, 4-3 SEC) fell to Alabama (17-8, 4-3 SEC) by a score of 7-6 on Friday night in the series opener.
The two teams combined for 12 runs through the first 3.5 innings before the two pitching staffs settled in for the night.
Scott Weathersby (1-1) took the loss in relief for the Rebels despite a masterful outing, allowing one run on two hits with six strikeouts in 3.0 innings of work. Weathersby entered the game in the third to relieve starter Chris Ellis, taking the mound with two men on and no outs, getting the Rebels out of the inning with a pair of strikeouts and a fly out.
Despite taking the loss, Weathersby – who retired the first nine batters faced – and the Rebels’ bullpen allowed only one run over the final 6.0 innings of the game.
Spencer Turnbull (3-1) picked up the win, allowing six runs on seven hits with three strikeouts through 6.2 innings, but stabilized after the first four innings to keep the Rebels off the board as the Crimson Tide rallied for the win. Thomas Burrows picked up his second save of the season, working the final 2.1 innings.
“It was a crazy game early,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “Alabama got more good swings of Chris (Ellis) and we got more good swings off Turnbull in the first couple of innings than I think anyone has gotten on either pitcher all year.
“Scott (Weathersby) was tremendous for us and came in and put some zeroes on the board to get us a chance to catch our breath and have a chance in the game,” Bianco said. “The bullpen did a great job allowing only the one run over the final couple of innings when we had some opportunities.”
Austin Anderson got things off to a roaring start for the Rebels, driving a two-run shot over the wall in right field in the first inning to give Ole Miss the 2-0 lead. Braxton Lee drew a one-out walk to put a man on the bases when Anderson came to the plate and pulled the ball to right to get the Rebels on the board.
Alabama answered in the bottom of the inning when Ben Moore delivered a solo shot to left center with two outs on the board. Ellis struck out the first two batters before Moore delivered his home run to cut the lead in half. The Rebel right-hander got a fly out in the next at bat to end the first with Ole Miss on top 2-1.
The Crimson Tide continued to cut away at the lead in the second inning, using a leadoff double from Wade Wass to get things started. A groundout moved him to third before a double down the first base line from Casey Hughston got him home to tie the game. Will Haynie then singled to left to push Hughston home and put Alabama on top 3-2.
Chase Vincent then delivered a two-run shot to left field to take the lead out to 5-2 on the Rebels as Ole Miss sought to get out of the inning. Ellis got a strikeout and a fly out of the next two batters to end the frame, but the Rebels trailed by three.
The Rebels punched back in the top of the third, using a double to the wall with the bases loaded to push two runs home and cut the lead to 5-4. Three straight singles from Lee, Anderson and Allen loaded the bases to set up the two-RBI hit from Orvis that trimmed the lead to one run.
Alabama moved back out by two runs with an RBI double to the wall in left center from Kyle Overstreet. Moore scored on the play after opening the inning with a single and taking second on a wild pitch. The double from Overstreet sent the Rebels to the bullpen for right-hander Scott Weathersby.
Weathersby then delivered a pair of strikeouts and a fly out to left center to end the inning and keep the Rebels within striking distance at 6-4 after three innings of play.
Ole Miss answered in the top of the fourth, pushing two runs home with a two-out rally in the inning. Will Jamison reached with a one-out triple before coming home in a single up the middle from Lee with two outs on the board. Lee then stole second to set up the tying score on a single through the right side from Anderson, who took a 1-2 pitch and pulled it through the gap to bring Lee across the plate and tie the game at 6-6.
Alabama clawed back in front in the sixth, taking advantage of a leadoff double to regain the lead. The ball to right from Wass to open the inning flared and just got past an outstretched Jamison to put the first batter on in the frame. A single through the left side then put men at the corners and the Rebels turned to the bullpen for left-hander Matt Denny.
Denny got a groundout to first, but the runner on third scored as Alabama moved back in front 7-6 and the Rebels again turned to the bullpen, this time for right-hander Aaron Greenwood. The senior got a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning and keep Ole Miss within striking distance of the Crimson Tide.
The Rebels couldn’t get any closer, despite getting runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings as Alabama closed things out to take the win in the opening game.
Ole Miss and the Crimson Tide will return to action in game two of the series at 6 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised by CSS with analysis and commentary by Matt Stewart and Joe Beckwith.
–Bill Bunting, Ole Miss Sports information
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