Another Shutout

Ole Miss got four runs in the fifth inning, and that was all either team would score as the Rebels downed Alabama 4-0 to open Southeastern Conference play. Ole Miss opponents have scored one run in the last five games.

At that point and with a four-run lead, starter Matt Crouse continued to cruise for the Rebels. With two outs and two on in the 7th, he turned things over to closer Jake Morgan who took the Rebels home to victory.

Crouse's final line was 6.2 innings pitched, with seven strikeouts and three hits. And no walks.

Alabama starter Nathan Kilcrease went seven innings, allowing only two earned runs.

But the Tide had some miscues that led to two more runs. The Rebels got five hits off Kilcrease. He had five strikeouts and a walk. Trey Pilkington went an inning at the end for Alabama, facing three batters in the eighth with no runs, hits, errors, or walks.

"Great pitched game," Bianco said immediately after his team moved to 15-4 overall and 1-0 in SEC play. "Unfortunately for Kilcrease, he had one tough inning. But I thought he pitched terrific. Both him and Matt (Crouse)."

Two things stand out for the Rebels in this one and also recently. The pitching staff has cut way down on the number of walks, a point of emphasis always but lately for sure. And in the last 45 innings of play, opponents have scored one run against the Rebels.

"We were fortunate we were able to put an inning together," Bianco said. "We were able to put some hits and capitalize on a few of their mistakes. And of course, Jake (Morgan) was terrific at the end."

In that productive bottom of the fifth, the Rebels got some help from some Alabama miscues. Miles Hamblin led off with a single, and Austin Anderson sac bunted him over. Up came first-year Rebel Zach Kirksey, and the junior college transfer launched one over the wall in left center to give Ole Miss a 2-0 lead.

Kirksey greeted at home by Hamblin
Bruce Newman
"It was a slider, and he left it over the plate," said Kirksey, who is now the Rebels' home run leader on the season with three round-trippers. "On the scouting report, it said he likes to go to offspeed with runners in scoring position. I was just trying to drive it somewhere up the middle. I was able to get a good piece of it and hit it out of the park. I knew I hit it well."

After a Blake Newalu single, Tanner Mathis reached on a single and moved to third on the play as the ball bounced away from Alabama right fielder Brandt Hendricks and he couldn't find it. After Alex Yarbrough struck out, Matt Smith reached on an error by Tide second baseman Jon Kelton, which allowed Mathis to score for the four-run Rebel lead.

Bianco was almost at a loss for words as to the success of the Rebel pitchers through the last 45 innings – 8-0, 3-0, 5-1 wins against Lipscomb, an 8-0 victory vs. Jackson State, and the 4-0 win Friday night.

"Keep it going," he smiled and said. "I don't know how to answer that. Certainly it's come at the right time. And it starts with Crouse. He's been tremendous. But everybody who has been out (on the mound) the last five games or so has pitched well."

Bianco said when Crouse came out of the contest, it was time.

"I think he kind of hit a wall there in the seventh," he said. "That's unlike him, uncharacteristic. He ran three hitters in a row to three-ball counts. He hit one. One got a base hit. And then he got to 3-0, battled back, and got him to pop up. I was proud of him. A lot of guys when they lose it, they lose it. And you can't get them out quick enough. You could tell he hit a wall and that can happen."

Crouse said overall he was pleased, especially with the team's victory.

"I felt pretty good out there," he said after moving to a perfect 5-0 this season. "I didn't feel the command was there like it was the past two starts. But everything was working pretty well, so I was happy with it."

The junior left-hander said he did grow a bit weary as the innings progressed.

"I got a little tired during the seventh," he said. "I couldn't find the strike zone for a little bit. But that happens."

Crouse said his first SEC start brought a little bit of extra anxiety.

"I was a little nervous before the game, but I kind of expected that," he said. "Once I got on the mound, everything was the same."

And for the Rebels, that's been a good thing all season with Crouse on the mound.

Saturday's first pitch is at 2 p.m. Right-hander David Goforth (0-2, 2.42) goes for the Rebels, while left-hander Adam Morgan (2-1, 3.74) is on the mound for Alabama.

The Crimson Tide fell to 11-7 overall and 0-1 in conference play with Friday night's loss.

OM Spirit Top Stories