Extra Special

For the third game in a row, the Rebels came from behind to win 4-3, this time over visiting Central Florida in a 13-inning marathon baseball game culminating in a John Gatlin walk-off infield single for the victory.

It was a game that had it all.

Good play, bad play and everything in between, but in the end - after 4 1/2 hours and 13 innings - Ole Miss outlasted the Central Florida Knights 4-3 on a cold night at Swayze Field.

The Rebels made errors, couldn't get down sac bunts, balked, couldn't get a timely hit at times, walked too many batters and even had its coach, Mike Bianco, ejected from the game, presumably for arguing balls and strikes with the home plate ump, but in the end, they toughed it out and prevailed, raising their record to 9-1 on the year in the process.

"I was proud of the way we hung in there after not playing well early," said Bianco postgame. "We gave them way too many opportunities. Errors, passed ball, a balk, missed signals - just a lot of mistakes that kept them in the game.

Robinson and Gatlin celebrate
Bruce Newman

"At the end, though, it looked like we were going to get the big hit and win the game and we did."

So, setting the stage for the final frame, C Will Allen drew a leadoff walk and pinch runner Kyle Toth was moved to second on a sac bunt by Preston Overbey.

pinch hitter Henri Lartigue pushed Toth to third on a 6-3 out in the hole and Colby Bortles drew a walk.

Enter one of the heroes of the night - John Gatlin, who missed all of last season due to injury and has had to have three surgeries just to play baseball again.

Gatlin got a 2-2 slider and drove it down the third base line. The Knight third-sacker bobbled it, Gatlin beat the throw at first by inches and Toth scored the game-winner.

"I thought he must have bobbled it twice for me to beat the throw," said an elated Gatlin, who was mobbed by his teammates shortly after he crossed the bag safely. "I was running as hard as I could."

"After what he has been through, I was very happy for John. He has been a selfless player who has really worked hard to come back from injury," Bianco noted. "Terrific job by him."

There were other heroes as well.

Starter Chris Ellis went seven complete innings allowing only one hit while striking out five and walking four.

"He did not have his best stuff, but he battled and got himself out of trouble a couple of times. He overcame some bad plays behind him too," Bianco assessed.

Ellis has pitched 22 innings this year and hasn't given up an earned run yet. 0.00 ERA is as good as it gets, perfect in fact.

In the fifth frame, hot-hitting Allen doubled to right center moved to third on an Overbey grounder and scored on a Sikes Orvis grounder to the right side of the infield.

In the top of the eighth, UCF took a 3-1 lead off some of the miscues Bianco was referring to. Two singles landed runners on first and third with a wild pitch plating one and a balk and sac fly bringing home another runner.

Ole Miss answered right back in the bottom of the eighth with the rally started by a single by PH Brantley Bell. SS Errol Robinson followed with a double to drive in a run and scored on an error by the Knights on an Auston Bousfield grounder.

From there, it was each team threatening a couple of times, but nobody being able to score until the bottom of the 13th.

In the top of the 9th, another Rebel hero emerged - RHP Preston Tarkington, who entered the game with the bases juiced with one out.

The sophomore from Searcy, Ark., got the one out on a weak fly to first and then struck out the next batter looking to end the major threat.

"After I got the strikeout, I knew we were going to find a way to win. We just have that kind of team," said Tarkington.

The Rebels used seven pitchers on the night. They combined for 11 strikeouts. Cheyne Bickel, who pitched the 13th for the Rebs, got the win, but even he had to wriggle out of jam when the Knights had back-to-back singles to start the frame. He fanned two and got the third out on a grounder to first.

"Tark, (Josh) Laxer and Bickel all did great jobs. Laxer was really special for a couple of innings after I got thrown out. He let us get the momentum back," Bianco stated.

The Rebs ended with four runs, 14 hits and two errors. The Knights had three runs on nine hits and made one miscue.

"I don't know if we have ever had three walk-off, come-from-behind wins in one week before," Bianco closed. "I think we are showing some toughness, which we have been preaching since the last game last year.

"And the good thing is that it has been different guys each game. I'm encouraged."

The Rebs face the Knights again tomorrow in the second game of the three-game series.

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