Bentley Homers Get Bama Past Ole Miss

In typical Friday night fashion in the Southeastern Conference, the University of Alabama baseball team bested No. 15 Ole Miss, 6-5, in a game that was not decided until the final pitch.



Alabama senior first baseman Matt Bentley clubbed two home runs and senior right-hander Josh Copeland wriggled out of jams in each of the last three innings to lead the Tide to the series-opening win.

Trailing by a run in the ninth, Ole Miss loaded the bases with one out off Copeland, who entered the game with one out in the seventh inning. Brett Basham led off the inning with a single and Jordan Henry moved pinch-runner Zack Miller into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Michael Guerrero walked and Logan Power lined a sharp single to right to load the bases with one out.

Copeland then got Cody Overbeck to foul out to Bentley at first base for the second out before cleanup hitter Matt Smith's ground ball forced Power at second to end the game. Overbeck went 0-for-4 and saw his 24-game hitting streak come to an end in the loss.

"We extended (Copeland) a little bit, but he gave us a chance to win the game," Alabama head coach Jim Wells. "We were going to win or lose this game with Copeland. He did a great job."

Copeland (1-1) wriggled out of danger in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to hand the Tide's its fifth straight win. He gave up five hits in his 61-pitch relief stint, with two strikeouts and one walk.

"I want the ball in my hand when the game is on the line," Copeland said.

He entered the game in relief of starter Austin Hyatt in the seventh inning with UA clinging to a 5-3 lead. He allowed two of the three inherited runners to score on a ground out by Henry and an RBI single through the left side of the infield by pinch-hitter Collin Kight as Ole Miss knotted the score at 5-5.

Copeland stranded two more runners in the eighth inning as he struck out Ferguson and Stuyverson to end another scoring threat, leaving runners at second and third. Ole Miss left eight runners in the game, with seven coming in the final three innings.

In the bottom of the eighth, Bentley ripped his second home run of the game to dead center off Ole Miss closer Scott Bittle to give the Tide a 6-5 lead. Bittle (1-1) gave up one run and one hit in three innings of relief and struck out five UA batters in the loss.

"I'm feeling real good right now," Bentley said after the game. "Lynn and Bittle are big-time pitchers. This was a big win for us."

Neither starter figured into the decision in Friday's opener. Hyatt allowed five runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings, with three strikeouts and two walks in his 95-pitch performance. Lynn allowed five runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings for the Rebels, with nine strikeouts and two walks, but was not involved in the decision as the Rebels scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning to tie the game. The five runs were the most allowed by Lynn this season. He threw 127 pitches.

Ole Miss jumped out to 3-0 lead in the second inning, only to see Alabama bounce back with five unanswered runs to grab a 5-3 lead through six innings of play.

The Rebels (15-10, 3-4 SEC) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Smith's two-out single through the left side of the infield that scored Michael Hubbard. Hubbard led off the inning with walk and later moved to second on a balk by Hyatt.

The Rebels made it 3-0 in the second inning when Stuyverson hit a two-run home run to left field. It was the third home run of the season for the Ole Miss second baseman.

After being retired in order in each of the first three innings, Alabama got on the board in the bottom of the fourth on a two-run home run by junior catcher Alex Avila. Freshman shortstop Josh Rutledge singled up the middle to open the inning before Avila slammed a one-out fastball to right to cut the lead to 3-2. It was Avila's team-leading eighth home run of the season.

"We battled back and after we got over the fact we were facing a Major League pitcher, we settled down and put some good swings on the ball. Lynn is a big-time pitcher. This was a good win."

Alabama (14-11, 3-4 SEC) took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning on back-to-back two out hits by Rutledge and freshman second baseman Ross Wilson. Junior DH Ryan Rhoden started the rally with a one-out double down the right field line and scored on Rutledge's two-out double to right. Wilson followed with an RBI triple past a diving Michael Hubbard in center field as UA took a one-run lead.

Bentley's first home run of the game gave Alabama a 5-3 lead in the sixth inning. He slammed 11th pitch of the at-bat into right center field, after fouling off five two-strike pitches and working the count to 3-2 before the home run. Junior center fielder Tyler Odle drew a two-out walk on another 11-pitch at-bat to chase Lynn.

Alabama and Ole Miss will meet in game two of this three game series on Saturday, March 29 at 4:05 p.m. (CST). Alabama will send sophomore Austin Graham (2-1, 3.47 ERA) to the mound against Ole Miss freshman Drew Pomeranz (1-0, 1.56 ERA), making his first career SEC start.

GAME NOTES:

*Prior to Friday's game, Alabama observed a moment of silence in memory of former football lettermen Victor Ellis, who lost his 11-month battle with cancer on Tuesday. Ellis played at Alabama from 1998-2001 and was elected permanent team captain in 2001. He was a member of the Crimson Tide's 1999 SEC Championship football team.

*Junior catcher Alex Avila (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) hit his team-leading eighth home run in the fourth inning. In eight career games against Ole Miss, Avila has three home runs and seven RBI. He has homered in three straight games against the Rebels.

*Senior first baseman Matt Bentley (Huntsville, Ala.) hit his sixth home run of the season in the sixth inning. The home run came on the 11th pitch of the at-bat off Lance Lynn. Bentley has homered in two straight games for the Tide. Bentley added his seventh homer of the season in the eighth inning for his second career multi-homer game of the season.

*Alabama extended its winning to five games with Friday's win over Ole Miss. In its last 17 games, Alabama has a six-game winning streak, a six-game losing streak and a five-game winning streak.

*Ole Miss has now lost four straight games and six of its last eight overall.

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