Winning Again

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - One thing's for sure. The whole world changes for this Ole Miss baseball team when Alex Yarbrough is able to play. And when he isn't.

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Hurt last Saturday early in the game against Auburn when he and a runner collided at first base, the junior second baseman says he's back. His stats in Ole Miss' 11-7 win Friday night backed that up.

"Just based on my pain level, it really wasn't hurting that much at all," he said after going 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored. "I felt it a little in the game Sunday. After that I really wasn't feeling anything. I knew even after I got the X-ray and MRI, I didn't think there was going to be anything seriously wrong at all. I begged and pleaded to get in the lineup Tuesday (against USM). I've never missed anything, even a practice, for an injury. It was really hard for me not to be able to play. But it was probably good in the end to make sure I was ready for SEC play this weekend."

And he was that, looking as smooth as usual at second base and comfortable at the plate.

"I was wearing a brace tonight that feels like it weighs 10 pounds," Yarbrough said. "I think it helps a lot. But even swinging without it, I didn't feel any pain really at all. Left-handed it was bothering me a little more than it was right-handed this (past) weekend. But I swung a bunch of times left-handed tonight, and I didn't feel a single thing. So it's really good."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said Yarbrough makes the offense so much better.

"We're just a different offense when he's in there," Bianco said. "He looked pretty good for not taking batting practice for four days."

Alabama (8-14, 0-4 SEC) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, and a Rebel team that needed something good to happen early wasn't getting that. Ole Miss had lost three of its last four games, including a dismal 10-0 midweek setback to Southern Mississippi after dropping two of three to Auburn at home.

But they came back quickly with two runs in the top of the second as Will Allen doubled and Zach Kirksey singled to send Allen to third. A wild pitch got Kirksey to second. Groundouts by Andrew Mistone and Preston Overbey got them home.

Andrew Mistone
File Photo

Yarbrough got Tanner Mathis home with a RBI single to make it 3-2 in the third, and it was 4-2 on an Andrew Mistone triple that scored Kirksey in the sixth.

The Crimson Tide tied it 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth, and that was it for starter Bobby Wahl, who was relieved by Dylan Chavez with one down in the sixth. The bases were loaded before the inning was done, and Chavez was able to get a groundout to end it with only two runs in, both charged to Wahl.

Then the Rebels (16-6, 2-2) exploded offensively. Alabama starter Charley Sullivan was finished through six. Before the Rebel seventh was completed, Ole Miss had scored seven runs, and the Tide had used three pitchers.

Up 11-4 at that point, the Tide scored an unearned run in the seventh. Chavez (1.2 innings, 1 unearned run, 3 hits, 2 strikeouts) had done his job, so Bianco sent Aaron Greenwood to the mound for the eighth. The sophomore righty finished the game, with two runs, one earned, on three hits with four strikeouts.

For a Friday night, the hits totals were amazing as Ole Miss had 16 and Alabama 13.

Chavez (2-0) got the win. Wahl went 5.1 innings allowing four runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and two walks.

Yarbrough was impressed with the offense throughout the lineup.

"Mistone swung it really well tonight and came up with runners on base," Yarbrough said. "To make it 4-2 (in the sixth inning) was bigger than some people might see. Will Allen (3-for-5), it seems like he hits a barrel every time he goes up there lately. Tanner Mathis (3-for-5) got three hits. It was a really great night for a lot of guys offensively."

Mistone said getting back on the winning side of things was important for this team in a number of ways.

"Every victory feels good, and we've been struggling offensively. It felt good to get that win and get back on track," he said. "We talked about believing, and this team's got nothing but heart. We're going to get the job done."

Yarbrough agreed it was good for the Rebels to get back to their winning ways after a bit of a tough stretch.

"It's really good to put up a bunch of runs and a bunch of hits," he said. "The pitchers battled through it, and at the end of the day we played really well."

RHP R.J. Hively (3-1, 1.88) gets the nod for Ole Miss Saturday at 2 p.m., while LHP Justin Kamplain (1-1, 2.53) is the scheduled starter for Alabama.

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