Late-Game Woes

ATHENS, Ga. - Ole Miss beat Central Arkansas twice on Tuesday in seven-inning games. For the Rebels' sake, it would have been better had Thursday night's game here against Georgia gone just seven.

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In the eighth inning, the Bulldogs scored six runs and won 8-4 to open the three-game series.

"Frustrating," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco after his team fell to 23-11 overall and dipped below .500 at 6-7 in Southeastern Conference play. "There's enough blame to go around."

But Bianco said it's been in relief that the Rebels have had the most trouble. It raised its head again Thursday night late.

"You have a lead with six outs remaining, and we have to figure out a way," he said. "We've tried several people and done different things, from leaving the starter in, the closer, the set-up guys and different people. We've got to learn how to stop the bleeding and close the game out on the mound."

In the big eighth for Georgia, Ole Miss reliever Aaron Greenwood, who had done a solid job since relieving starter Bobby Wahl in the bottom of the fifth, gave up a single and a walk and threw a wild pitch to move runners to second and third.

In came closer Brett Huber who immediately walked Peter Verdin to load the bases, still with no outs. It was a critical moment in the game that Huber would reflect on afterwards.

"When I come in with 1-2 (count), I'm supposed to strike the guy out. That's my job," he said. "That's what closers are supposed to do. I didn't do it. Walked him."

It was a sign of bad things to come.

Conor Welton reached on a fielder's choice as Verdin was out at second, and Colby May, who had walked, moved to third. Brett DeLoach, who had led off the inning with a single, scored to close the gap to 4-3.

Pinch-hitter Nelson Ward singled to left to score May. Curt Powell singled to load the bases again with one out.

After veteran Levi Hyams struck out, up came Kyle Farmer and a double to the right-center gap to clear the bases.

Hunter Cole singled to score Farmer, and the Bulldogs led 8-4. Cole tried to stretch it to two and was out at second base.

The damage was done, and the Rebels got a hit but nothing more in the ninth.

Bianco said sticking with Greenwood (2.2 IP, 2 runs, 4 hits, 2 Ks, 1 BB) made sense since the sophomore righty was having a good game.

Bobby Wahl
Bruce Newman

"Greenwood was pitching really well with a two-run lead and all those right-handers," he said. "With him throwing so many strikes, I figured we'd get Huber warm. And if there was a chance we needed help in the eighth, we would bring him in."

And he was called upon.

"We bring Huber in and he tries but we can't punch him out, and we walk him," Bianco said.

Ole Miss had broken a 2-2 tie in the top of the sixth when Welton dropped a fly ball that allowed Matt Snyder to reach and Alex Yarbrough, who had singled to move to second. Or so it seemed.

But Welton airmailed the throw to first base as Yarbrough scored and Snyder advanced to third. Will Allen singled to get Snyder home.

Georgia threatened in the seventh and had Farmer aboard at first when Cole doubled in the right center gap. But Auston Bousfield gathered the baseball in, threw to Yarbrough who then threw home to Allen for the tag of Farmer. And after seven it remained a two-run Ole Miss lead.

But the six-run eighth was upcoming, and Huber said when he went in he was ready.

"I felt fine, just wasn't throwing strikes," Huber, with seven saves on the season, now with a 1-2 record. "I'm supposed to throw strikes. That's what closers are supposed to do, and I didn't do that tonight."

Huber said the pitch he made to Farmer he sent to the outfield for a 3-run double wasn't his best.

"Fast ball away but it tailed right over the middle of the plate and he took it out of there to the gap," Huber said. "I left it over the plate and it was supposed to be away and it tailed in."

Starter Bobby Wahl, (4.1 IP, 2 runs, 6 hits, 6 Ks, 1 BB) said he felt fine a week after having what was referred to as tired arm.

"I felt alright, just couldn't get ahead of guys and wasn't doing my job," he said "It's on me tonight. I got behind way too many times and you can't do that no matter how dominant your stuff is."

The Bulldogs improved to 21-13 and also 6-7.

Georgia starter Michael Palazzone got his first win of the season and is now 1-4. He allowed nine hits and only two earned runs with eight strikeouts and no walks. His ERA coming in was 5.64. He also pitched a complete-game 8-3 win against the Rebels in Oxford last year.

Game two is at 6 p.m. CDT Friday. Senior RHP R.J. Hively (3-2, 2.68) will go for Ole Miss, and sophomore LHP Alex Wood (4-1, 2.45 ERA) is set to pitch for Georgia.

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