Kentucky Closed Out

Ole Miss led Kentucky led by a run after seven innings Sunday but still had work to do on the mound for victory. Brett Huber took care of things in that regard as the Rebels hung on to win 6-5.

The sophomore right-hander, a freshman All-American last season as a closer, pitched twice this weekend in the Rebels' sweep of Kentucky. Friday night he only got in for two-thirds of an inning but that was long enough to get credited for the win.

Then in the finale he entered in the eighth, relieving Eric Callender who had gone two innings in relief of starter Austin Wright. Huber allowed just one hit in the two innings, a two-out single that caused no damage. Then in the ninth he walked the first batter but was able to come back for nothing further, the last out a strikeout to end it.

Huber was sensational last season in the closer role after Jake Morgan was injured and lost for the season. Much of this season, the Belleville, Ill., native has had his ups and downs. But Sunday he admitted he felt like the Huber of 2010.

"I've got it back," Huber said of his form from last season. "I think I was rushing to the plate a little too much. That happened with all the walks I had. My confidence is up and I feel so much better out there now."

Huber said he lives for moments like Sunday.

"I love emotion. I live for the pressure situation, the one-run games, situations like that," said Huber, slapping his leg with his hand as he walked toward the media for postgame interviews, obviously still pumped up from the moment just completed. "You've just got to make sure you breathe out there."

By that, here's what he meant.

"Breathing is a big thing to me," Huber said, as he smiled and reporters chuckled. "Deep breaths. Routine. Release. If something bad happens, you've just got to get through it."

That he did, twice this weekend, once for a win and once for a save. He said sweeping this series was obviously big for the team, which stands now at 23-14 overall and 8-7 in Southeastern Conference play.

"Lately we've had a lot of close games, and we haven't been coming out on top," said Huber, now with four saves on the season. "Kentucky came out here and competed real hard. All of them were close this weekend."

Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said Huber was his man on this day for the late innings.

"We knew we would go to Brett at the end," he said. "As soon as it got to 5-3 after (Kentucky) had the five-run (sixth) inning, we didn't score. But we go back out on the field (in the top of the seventh) and Callender gets them 1, 2, 3. I thought there was a little momentum switch there."

Huber pumped up about the victory
Bruce Newman
Then Huber came in and took care of business to seal the deal. Kentucky fell to 17-20 overall and 2-13 in the league.

Bianco said his team showed some toughness this weekend.

"Another hard-fought game, similar to the other two. Just so competitive," he said. "I like the weekend and how we were able to handle the adversity, that whenever they made a run at us, we were able to handle it."

In the early going, the Rebels led 3-0. Alex Yarbrough got a solo homer in the bottom of the first. Will Allen duplicated that in the bottom of the second. Blake Newalu led off the third with a single and Matt Tracy got him home later with a single.

Kentucky put up five runs in the sixth, all they'd get on this day, as the Rebels contributed to their own half an inning demise with two errors. Wright was pulled after back to back lead off singles, and Callender eventually was able to stop the bleeding with the Rebels down only two runs.

Then Callender had the top of the seventh that Bianco referred to that he allowed nothing, and the Rebels still had a chance.

Ole Miss scored three runs in the seventh to retake the lead and turn it over to Huber. Matt Smith doubled after Yarbrough had doubled, and a run was home. Miles Hamblin reached on a fielder's choice that was almost a double play. But it allowed Smith to get home and tie the game at 5-5.

Taylor Hightower's first-pitch single got Preston Overbey home after the freshman had reached base on a walk and moved to third on the Hamblin fielder's choice.

Callender got his first win of the season against no losses.

Huber said the team is at its highest confidence level of the season at this point.

"We're above .500 (in conference play) now," Huber said. "There's a lot of confidence in us. We're hitting the ball well and we're pitching well. Hopefully we can go down to Auburn and get some wins and win the series."

Yarbrough said the Rebels are pleased to have gotten back into the thick of things as far as the Southeastern Conference race is concerned.

"It's huge," he said. "It's always a dogfight in the SEC. Everybody is so good and so talented. To get a sweep is a great building block for us."

Next up, there's Mississippi State in Pearl. The Rebels and the Bulldogs meet for the first of four times this regular season at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Trustmark Park. The three-game series in mid-May is in Oxford.

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