Freshman catcher Cooper Johnson provided two big hits and made multiple plays with his gloves on his 19th birthday, but it wasn’t enough as the Ole Miss baseball team dropped a tight battle for the Governor’s Cup, 4-2, Tuesday night at Trustmark Park. The Rebels (25-16) brought the tying run to the plate in each the final four innings, but Mississippi State (29-14) escaped threat after threat throughout the night.
Johnson went 2-for-4 with a double and one RBI, while throwing out two baserunners attempting to steal. It was only fitting that the freshman had one of his best games of the year on his birthday. Will Golsan also maintained his hot hitting with his team-leading 15th multi-hit game of the season. The Rebels stranded 12 runners on base during the contest.
Greer Holston (2-3) pitched effectively, only allowing three runs on a home run by MSU slugger Brent Rooker. The freshman tossed 6.0 innings and gave up six hits, although four of them did not get out of the infield.
Along with his homer, Rooker also scored another late run to provide some breathing room for the Bulldogs. Denver McQuary (1-1) walked five and gave up two runs on five hits in 5.1 innings to earn the victory, while Riley Self (2) pitched the ninth to collect the save.
Holston needed just eight pitches to retire the Bulldogs in order to begin the game. Meanwhile, McQuary used 31 pitches to get through the inning and work out of a bases-loaded jam. Two walks as well as a single by Golsan put three Rebels on base, but MSU was able to get out of the frame without allowing a run.
The two starting pitchers went back-and-forth putting up zeroes as the game remained scoreless through the first four innings. In the top of the fifth, the duel ended when two singles and a home run broke the 0-0 tie. With two on and one out, Rooker homered to left-center field to give the Bulldogs a three-run lead.
Ole Miss chalked up a pair of runs in the sixth to make it a one-run ballgame. Thomas Dillard smashed a ground rule double to right field before Johnson singled up the middle, his second hit of the night, to score his fellow freshman. With two outs, Tate Blackman brought Johnson home by legging out a double to center field. By getting two runs back, the Rebels trailed 3-2 through six innings.
The Rebels put runners on the corners in the seventh, but a MSU pitching change led to a double play to end the inning. To start the eighth, Rooker doubled but was nearly picked off at second base on the next at-bat. Johnson threw a laser that beat Rooker back to the bag, but the Bulldog was ruled safe. A single proceeded to knock him in to increase the difference to two, 4-2. In the bottom of half of the frame, Ole Miss had runners on the corners once again. However, the Bulldogs left the pair on base to maintain a two-run lead.
Will Stokes pitched the ninth and worked a 1-2-3 inning thanks to the help of Johnson defensively. After two quick outs, MSU roped a single to left field. The throw came in and got away from the cutoff man, and the Bulldog attempted to advance into scoring position. However, Johnson raced down the line to back up first base, picked up the ball and threw a dart to second to nab the runner. The heads-up play allowed Ole Miss to go into the bottom of the ninth down by only two. While the Rebels were able to get the tying run on base, Self kept the bats in check for the 4-2 win.
Up next, Ole Miss heads to Arkansas to face the Razorbacks (April 27-29). The first two games of the three-game set will be nationally televised on SEC Network beginning with the Thursday night series opener at 6 p.m. Game two will begin at 6 p.m. as well, while the series finale will take place Saturday afternoon with a 4 p.m. first pitch on SECN+. All three games can be heard on the airwaves of the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network.
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Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports