Friday Night Fumbles

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said eight runs are supposed to be enough to win on a Friday night in the Southeastern Conference. But against Georgia in the series opener, it wasn't for the Rebels.

Georgia beat Ole Miss 9-8, and it was defensive mistakes, mainly four errors by the Rebels, that did them in.

"We competed hard but don't play well enough in any of the phases," said Bianco after his team fell to 19-12 overall and 4-6 in SEC play. "For the second week in a row we make too many errors."

But it looked early like the Rebels had come to play and Georgia would be the one making the mistakes. Ole Miss scored three runs on only one hit in the bottom of the first inning. The Rebels got three runs after loading the bases on a hit by pitch, a walk, and a bunt that stayed fair. After Matt Smith struck out, Matt Tracy reached on a fielder's choice and a Bulldog error by the third baseman as two runs scored.

Preston Overbey flew out to center field to score another Rebel run from third base. That would be all Ole Miss would get in the first, but with Matt Crouse on the mound it would appear it might be enough.

The Rebel ace was 6-1, the lone loss last week at LSU, but he wasn't able to keep the Bulldogs at bay. Crouse made it through seven innings and one batter in the eighth, but by the end of the top of the fifth, Georgia was up 6-3.

The top of the fifth was where things went completely haywire for the Rebel defense. With Georgia leading 4-3, Kyle Farmer singled followed by a double from Zach Cone. The Rebels had trouble defensively, committing two errors on one play as Georgia got two runs home on the play to lead by three.

The Rebels answered in the bottom of the fifth with a sac fly from Newalu that got Taylor Hightower home after he had reached on an infield single.

Taylor Hightower scores
Bruce Newman
Leading 6-4, Georgia immediately answered with a run in the top of the sixth. In the bottom of the sixth, Ole Miss cut the lead to 7-5 on a solo home run by Overbey, his second of the season.

With a three-up, three down inning by Crouse in the seventh, the Rebels had a chance to tie or go ahead. Taylor Hightower and Jordan Poole singled to open the bottom of the frame, and both moved up a base on a wild pitch during Tanner Mathis' at-bat. Mathis reached on a fielder's choice that scored Hightower. But a fly out by Newalu and a ground out by Yarbrough ended the Rebel threat.

Leading 7-6, the Bulldogs added a run in the eighth on a solo homer by Jonathan Hester off Crouse. That would be the last pitch for Crouse in the game as Eric Callender came in to relieve the Rebel starter.

Georgia made it 9-6 in the top of the ninth on a single by Conor Welton past third base that scored Zach Cone who had walked.

The Rebels made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth. After Miles Hamblin walked, Jordan Poole launched a two-run shot into the home bullpen in left field to cut the Georgia lead to 9-8. Mathis then flew out, Blake Newalu struck out looking, and Alex Yarbrough flew out to end it.

"Matt's command tonight wasn't as good as it's been," said Bianco of Crouse, who finished with eight runs, six earned, on 10 hits with two strikeouts and two walks.

"Georgia did an excellent job, laying off a lot of his off-speed pitches, a team that's normally very aggressive and was tonight," Bianco said. "They were able to lay off some changeups that put a little pressure on Matt. His command tonight wasn't as good as it's been. They did a good job, and they had something to do with that.

"(The errors) make it hard on him. We don't allow him to roll out some innings. He competes hard and gives us a chance. But we just gave them too many runs."

The Rebels had eight hits and could have had more. Several well-hit balls were either close to the wall or were caught in diving fashion by Georgia outfielders.

Crouse got the loss to fall to 6-2. Georgia starter Alex Wood is now 4-3 with the win. Bulldog closer Tyler Maloof got his 12th save of the season.

Ole Miss and Georgia (17-14, 7-3) play again at 2 p.m. Saturday.

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