By: Jeff Roberson
McKay pitched a complete game gem, allowing only three hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. On the mound he was basically flawless. At the plate, he was 1-for-4 with a walk.
“He did a really good job of commanding the zone,” said Ole Miss catcher Henri Lartigue. “He didn’t relent when he got down a pitch. He was able to consistently make pitches with all of his stuff.”
The Rebels had limited opportunities offensively. In the second Colby Bortles got on with a single but Tate Blackman hit into a double play. Errol Robinson got a one-out single in the fourth but two outs later he was stranded. In the fifth Tate Blackman singled but Lartigue grounded into a double play and D.J. Miller struck out.
And that was it for offense for Ole Miss. There were some other near opportunities, but Louisville made some solid defensive plays.
Still, Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco wants to see more from his offense, and in other ways than just hits and runs.
“We’ve got to continue to fight and compete, and there are days when the other pitcher is just so dominant,” he said. “But we’ve got to make them work harder. We’ve got to foul more balls off, do something to get him over 100 pitches to get him out of the game. He certainly was really good today.”
Bianco also said that one of the most important aspects of Saturday’s contest was that Rebel starter Chad Smith was able to pitch effectively and deep into the game. Last Saturday against Florida International, although a victory for the team, Smith was not as good as he was the second time around.
“Chad really matched (McKay) pitch for pitch,” he said. “He was every bit as good as McKay today. We hurt him with the errors (three) and the unearned run. Maybe moreso than the unearned run was how much he had to work to get out of the inning. But they only had four hits going into the eighth.”
After a leadoff single followed by a double, Smith was pulled in that eighth inning.
“I thought this was a big step,” said Smith, the junior college transfer who only went 3 and 2/3 innings against FIU a week earlier. “I was disappointed we didn’t get the win today. But I felt good on the mound, the arm was good, and I just really tried to compete.”
Smith said he felt better out there and that things were working for him in this one. It showed in his performance and his stats, allowing two earned runs, but only one through seven innings, with six hits, a strikeout and two walks.
“The command with the fast ball was there,” he said. “I was able to throw the fast ball to both sides of the plate. My slider was there, and my changeup was there at times. I just tried to keep the hitters off balance as best I could and always remember the next pitch is the most important pitch. Just tried to take that approach.”
Smith said going inning for inning with a pitcher like McKay was enjoyable for him.
“When you get into a battle like that with another pitcher, it’s fun,” he said. “At the same time you can’t worry about that stuff. You just have to stay focused on what you’re doing and make the next pitch.”
Brady Feigl (one inning, four hits, one run) and Dallas Woolfolk (one inning, one walk, one strikeout) finished things off for Ole Miss on the mound.
The Rebels (5-1) and the Cardinals (5-1) meet at 1:30 p.m. Sunday to decide the series.
Ole Miss will send junior right-hander Sean Johnson to the mound, while Louisville will counter with junior left-hander Drew Harrington.