Road Winner

Matt Crouse worked a career-long 7.0 innings and tied a career-high with eight strikeouts before giving way to Brett Huber closed things out for the Rebels as Ole Miss (6-0) defeated Houston (4-1) by a score of 4-2 on Friday at Cougar Field.

Crouse (2-0) picked up the win, holding the Cougars to two runs on six hits. The left-hander held Houston scoreless through 5.0 innings before yielding two runs in a wild sixth inning that saw the Cougars load the bases on a trio of infield singles before pushing two runners across the plate. Crouse then notched a strikeout and a double play to get the Rebels out of the inning.

Huber picked up his second save of the season, closing out the final 2.0 innings allowing only one hit to preserve the victory for the Rebels.

Codey Morehouse (1-1) suffered the loss for the Cougars as he allowed three runs - two earned - on five hits with six strikeouts in 5.0 innings of work.

Sophomores Tanner Mathis and Alex Yarbrough were efficient at the plate for the Rebels, driving in all four runs for Ole Miss. Mathis was 1-for-2 at the plate with a run scored and two RBI, while Yarbrough was 2-for-4 with two RBI.

"It all starts on the mound on Friday night, and it's hard to expect more from Matt Crouse than what he gave us tonight," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "A lot will be said of the jam he pitched his way out of in the sixth, but we put him in that jam. He kept battling and got out of it with the strikeout and the double play. Then Huber was just great out of the bullpen."

Ole Miss got on the board in the first inning, scoring a run when Alex Yarbrough doubled down the left field line to drive in Tanner Mathis from second. Mathis reached on a fielding error in the lead-off spot, hitting a sharp grounder to third that was misplayed and bounced into left, allowing Mathis to reach second before the Yarbrough hit.

The Rebels added a second run in the second inning when Zach Kirksey scored on a foul fly from Tanner Mathis. Kirksey reached on a single to center before moving to third on a double down the left field line from Blake Newalu. The left fielder then scored on the foul fly from Mathis to give Ole Miss the 2-0 lead.

Mathis came up with another huge play for the Rebels in the fourth inning, laying down a bunt with the bases loaded and one out. The Cougars' Morehouse went home with the throw, but Preston Overbey slid in ahead of the play to score and give the Rebels a 3-0 lead.

The Cougars loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the sixth before a single to third scored the first run for the home team. A walk of the next batter pushed a second run across and left the bases loaded for Houston. Crouse then got a strikeout and a grounder to short for a double play to get the Rebels out of the inning with a 3-2 lead still in place.

Blake Newalu
Blake Newalu got a run back for the Rebels in the top of the seventh, scoring on a single to left center from Yarbrough that put Ole Miss up 4-2. Newalu reached on a bunt single to open the inning and moved to second on a sac bunt from Mathis. He then scored on the hit from Yarbrough to put the Rebels back on top by two runs.

Crouse closed out the night by notching a pair of strikeouts and a pop out in the seventh inning before giving way to Huber out of the bullpen who retired four straight before giving up his only hit of the night. He then got the final two outs to give Ole Miss the series opening win.

The Rebels and Cougars will play the second game of the series at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

What the Rebels had to say:

Alex Yarbrough:

"We get a run after the first two batters which was huge. It takes out their crowd a little bit. It takes out their dugouts' energy just a little bit. You can't say enough about Crouse. He pounded the zone all night. He was in control all night long. We came up with some hits, and a great defensive play by Blake (Newalu) to start the double play when they had the bases loaded. That was huge getting out of that inning for Crouse."

Matt Crouse:

"I was able to throw all my pitches into the strike zone tonight. It was big for us to come out early and get a run and get a little confidence. That helped."

Bianco on working with the hitters:

"Tonight the disappointing thing was some guys looked like they shut it down (at the plate). They weren't as aggressive and that's the fear when you try to make some adjustments. Sometimes they go a little bit backwards on you and they lose their aggressiveness. We can't do that. That will be the big message tomorrow, and that's to stay aggressive at the plate."

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