Rebels win series opener against Cardinals

Maybe you should just say No. 21 Ole Miss gutted one out against No. 2 Louisville Friday in a 6-5 Rebel win. The assessment from the Rebels afterward was that they can play better. And must.

By: Jeff Roberson

Even Mike Bianco wouldn’t admit his troops played all that well in game one of this important early-season series, even with the victory. He was already looking toward Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game and improved play from his squad.

“It’s one game and obviously we’re happy to win,” said the UM head coach whose team moved to 5-0 on the young season. “But we didn’t play very well. We’ve got to play better tomorrow, and the guys realize that. Tomorrow is a big day. Play well and we get a chance to win tomorrow and win the series.”

Louisville came in with highly-touted righty Kyle Funkhouser on the mound to start this one. Drafted last summer after his junior year by the Dodgers as the 35th pick in the supplemental round between rounds one and two, Funkhouser chose to return to college. But he didn’t expect nights like this.

He lasted 3.2 innings and by the time he departed, Ole Miss led 6-1 and Funkhouser had walked seven Rebels, given up three hits, and had three strikeouts that ultimately didn’t matter.

J.B. Woodman had gotten things rolling offensively for Ole Miss in the first. After Brady Bramlett got Louisville in order in the top of the inning, Woodman launched a two-run shot to right field that also scored Errol Robinson who had reached on a leadoff walk.

After the Cardinals trimmed the advantage to 2-1 with a fourth-inning leadoff homer from Blake Tiberi, that’s when Funkhouser's troubles truly began. When the fourth was complete, the Cards trailed by five runs, Funkhouser had walked five in the frame, and his night was done.

Three UL pitchers the rest of the way kept the Ole Miss offense from scoring, and the Rebels had only six total hits in the contest to Louisville’s 10.

But as the Cardinal offense chipped away at the UM lead little by little, it was closer Wyatt Short who came in to finish off the visitors.

Bramlett, who is 2-0 on the season now, went five innings, allowing three runs on six hits with four walks and eight strikeouts.

David Parkinson started the sixth and went one inning, allowing two runs, but only one earned. Will Stokes came on and went 1.1 innings with a run, a hit, and a strikeout. He left one on with one out in the eighth as Short came on to close it out.

The Rebel veteran closer then went 1.2 innings with just a hit and three big strikeouts.

Ole Miss now has two one-run victories in the last three days.

Louisville, the Atlantic Coast Conference champions in 2015, is now 4-1 on the season.

Quotable Rebels:

Bianco on Bramlett’s performance: “I thought he was able to hang in there. The first inning he just blows right through it. With a two-run lead in the second inning, he wasn’t the same after that. It took a lot out of him; I think he threw 34 pitches that inning. He still competed, and that’s what you have to do that if you’re the Friday night guy.”

Bianco on the UM offense: “Disappointed tonight we didn’t swing it better, especially with runners in scoring position. That’s what we’re missing. We’re missing the big double or extra base hit with so many runners on. Credit their pitchers. Some good at-bats but I was disappointed at some of the at-bats, especially early.”

Bianco on Woodman’s two-run, first-inning home run: “Huge. In a game like this on Friday night, when there’s usually not a lot of runs scored, I thought it was important to get on the board first and to get the crowd into it.”

Bianco on the relievers, and Short getting his second save of the season: “I thought Parkinson pitched well. Stokes came in and we felt we gave them a run there with a wild pitch. Those runs really matter. You’ve got to feel good with Wyatt on the mound and with the lead.”

Bramlett on his night: “My breaking ball was working tonight. My fast ball was working too. As the guy starting on Friday, you’ve got to have that emotion on the mound and in the dugout. The goal of any starter is to set the tone of the game to get the win.”

Bramlett on Woodman’s home run: “That was fantastic. Proud of J.B. Whenever you score two runs in the first inning, it’s a dagger immediately.”

Short on his night and the team winning two close games this week – vs. Arkansas State Wednesday and against Louisville: “It was intense. Just fill up the zone. That’s my goal the whole time. Lot of confidence out there. We didn’t play our best game either game (this week). We plan to get better every day.”   


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