Game Story By: Jeff Roberson
The Ole Miss Rebels just keep on winning. A team that started Southeastern Conference play 2-6 now stands 17-10 in league play following a 7-5 win against Kentucky to complete the sweep.
This time it was “King” Henri Lartigue, as some Rebel fans have begun to call the junior catcher. On Saturday, with two runners aboard, his walkoff home run over the right field fence, his team down a run, mightily launched Ole Miss into its final week of the regular season.
“Starting off the at-bat, (Sean Hjelle, a 6-foot-11 right-hander) threw a breaking ball that I thought was down," Lartigue said. "I had a good relationship with (umpire) Jeff (Macias) all day. If he thought it was a strike, it might have been a strike. (Hjelle) threw another questionable one I thought was off the plate, and (Macias) thought it was, too. I was just continuing to try to have a quality at-bat. I think he hung a changeup, and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
And swing the Rebels (39-13 overall) right on to victory and into next week. Arkansas State is up next on Tuesday night in Jonesboro.
Being a catcher, Lartigue knows that strike zone. He admitted he is in good position to know what an umpire will call, especially late in games after he has seen him all day.
“You know the zone better than anybody on the team,” he said. “You’ve been back there for nine innings at that point. (Macias) was a guy that was big up and down, and we saw that there. But he wasn’t big off the plate. I knew that. I just knew I had to make sure to get my hands extended and get a ball up in there air so we could get a run. And I was able to do that.”
Rebel starter James McArthur was shaky at best earlyon, but Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco admitted some of the woes – five runs, all from two homers – was his own fault. The head coach’s fault, that is.
“I blame myself on a couple of the pitches," Bianco said. "Just bad pitches I called. We went away from some of the things that we were doing. Pitches that were dumb calls by me that led to some hits and a home run. The game sped up a little bit. Once he got behind, you could see his command wasn’t the same, and that’s really him. Once they got the lead, his command just wasn’t there.”
Bianco said all the relievers – Brady Feigl, Wyatt Short, and Will Stokes – were huge keys to the win.
“We don’t get there without Feigl’s great outing,” Bianco said. “He threw 50-plus pitches with one day off. Wyatt gets out of a jam with a couple of runners on. And Will with two innings on Thursday comes back today and was lights out.”
It was the third victory of the year for Ole Miss when it was down five runs in a game.
“A huge win for us,” said senior Holt Perdzock. “It’s been our goal all year to get to 40 wins, host a Regional, host a Super Regional. Got a big game on Tuesday and a big series next weekend (at Texas A&M).”
Lartigue said the Rebels never gave up and felt they were going to win, even down five runs early.
“After we were down by five, in the dugout you could just feel everybody was like ‘We’re not losing 5 nothing.’ You can’t control how the game ends up, but you can control having quality at-bats. The pitchers can go up there and make pitches. Just chip away, and that’s what we were able to do. And the bullpen was just tremendous. Big credit to those guys.”
Stokes (1-0) got the win in relief. Ole Miss had 11 hits to UK’s 10. The Wildcats fell to 29-23, 13-14.
Lartigue, who walked off a win for Ole Miss against Auburn a few weeks ago in the series finale, admitted the pile of humanity immediately afterward vs. Kentucky, all dressed in powder blue unis, was a little rough for a few moments.
“That’s the most beating I’ve taken all year,” he said. “Being a catcher, you get beat up a little bit. The guys got me pretty good right there.”