One More Chance

ATHENS, Ga. - Ole Miss had an opportunity to set a tone early offensively but couldn't produce anything. After that, Georgia basically controlled the game and won 6-3 Friday night to claim the series.

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The two teams played at Foley Field Thursday night and the Bulldogs won 8-4. The finale is Saturday at Noon CDT.

On Friday night, it was in the second inning that the Rebels had runners at second and third with one out. But Preston Overbey struck out, and John Gatlin popped up to strand them.

That's when Georgia came right back with two runs in the bottom of the second, and the Bulldogs had taken command. Curt Powell's two-RBI double gave the home team the early advantage at 2-0.

Seven more innings were left to be played. But an Ole Miss team that appears to be thinking bad thoughts instead of good ones needed an early lift after having lost three of its last four Southeastern Conference games.

The same "need" will be the case in the last of the three-game set Saturday, or you will likely see a Rebel team that's collective shoulders sag and heads drop.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, his team now reeling a bit at 23-12 overall and 6-8 in SEC action, called the upperclassmen together – juniors and seniors – in the outfield for a message that junior team co-captain Alex Yarbrough said was another "need" for the team with some youngsters on its roster.

"Just making sure there are people the younger guys can look to," Yarbrough said of the team meeting with the veterans. "We've dropped two (games) here, and we've got a lot of young guys playing key roles. We've hit a little bit of a rut here. Just making sure we keep our body language up and we keep the morale of the team up so the younger guys can look towards us."

That is obviously important and will give Ole Miss its best chance to rebound. So far, nothing much has worked in league play since taking two of three games from Florida two weeks ago.

In game two, the Bulldogs (22-13, 7-7) added three runs in the bottom of the fourth to lead 5-0 before the Rebels got on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth. Two players who earlier hadn't produced came through this time.

Overbey doubled and Gatlin got him home with a double to cut the Georgia lead to 5-1.

"I knew they were starting a lefty today, and the coaches had been helping me out and telling me that's my best shot," said Gatlin, 1-for-3 with a RBI stepping in for Zach Kirksey who is normally in the DH role. "He had two strikes on me. I just kind of widened up, choked up and didn't know what was coming. The guy had a really good fastball. I was ready for whatever and just slapped it (for the RBI double)."

Matt Snyder
Bruce Newman

In the top of the eighth, the Rebels tried to make a game of it and scored twice. They chased starter Alex Wood after Auston Bousfield stood at third and Yarbrough at second following a single and a double repectively. After Matt Snyder struck out, Wood, 5-1 with the win, departed and in came reliever Bryan Benzor.

Will Allen grounded out to score Bousfield. Austin Anderson singled to score Yarbrough.

But that's where the story ends, at least as far as any Ole Miss threat. And this one went into the record books as a win for Georgia, who added a run in the bottom of the eighth.

"We talk a lot about the starting pitcher," Bianco said. "Tonight Alex (Wood) was tremendous. He wouldn't give in. We had a couple of opportunities early in the game with a runner at third base and less than two outs. And couldn't get him in. You've got to max out those opportunities.

"We leave runners on (in the top of the second inning), and they come back and score two in the bottom half of that inning," Bianco continued, looking back to the early part of the contest. "You've got to get them in against a guy like Wood. You can't leave those opportunities out there. Then you've got to pitch better. You've got to make sure you're putting up zeroes and matching them."

Starter R.J. Hively (5 runs, 7 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts) went four innings and got the loss to fall to 3-3. Tanner Bailey went 2.2 innings in relief, struck out four, walked two, and allowed only one hit.

Josh Laxer and Hawtin Buchanan went two/thirds of an inning each, with Laxer giving up a run on a hit with a walk and a strikeout. Buchanan struck out one with nothing more for his stat line.

Yarbrough said the Rebels will approach Saturday's game with a focus on winning again before heading back to Oxford.

"Our offense still feels confident," he said. "But we've got to come out tomorrow with a lot of energy and swing it a little better and put some more runs on the board."

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