Rebs can't quite catch up in 8-7 loss

Ole Miss spotted visiting Northwestern (La.) State a 7-0 lead and almost came all the way back to win.

Ole Miss dug itself a hole against visiting Northwestern (La.) State Tuesday night and almost climbed all the way out of it.

Down 7-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning, the Rebels fell short in their comeback bid and dropped an 8-7 decision to the Demons.

"It was a tough night," Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said, whose team is now 5-3 on the season. "And it was just one of those nights that they were really good offensively. That's baseball."

Bianco said a couple of relievers really stepped up which was big.

"I was really proud of Michael Wakefield coming in and pumping the ball into the zone with bases loaded and doing what he did. And Tommy Baumgardner did another good job out there, and that's three times for him to come out of the bullpen and do well. It was nice to see them do that. We've got to find a couple of other guys. We need a couple of more pitchers to come through for us."

Another bright spot for Bianco was an errorless game for the Rebs and also some quality defensive play.

"We played solid defense," he said. "I think that's one of the reasons they didn't score even more runs. We caught some balls and turned some double plays and made some plays in the field. We threw out a couple of base stealers and all that gave us a chance to win."

Ole Miss catcher Barry Gunther said losing the early-season games is tough to take.

"We were down 7-0, and we came back," he said. "We know we can score a lot of runs, and tonight we had to again. We've got to hit the ball better than we did."

Rebel second baseman Cooper Osteen agreed.

"We have to be able to win games like this," he said. "You always need to win close games. It is early. One good thing is that we will win our share of close games. We just have to keep playing, and we get another chance to win tomorrow."

RHP junior Anthony Cupps started for the Rebels and went two innings. He had gone two innings as the starter in Sunday's rainout and was called on to start again tonight.

Cupps allowed three earned runs on four hits with a walk and two strikeouts in the game Tuesday night.

His replacement, redshirt freshman LHP Travis Bogue, got roughed up, not even making it out of the third. When he left the game, the Rebs trailed 5-0 with the bases loaded.

Sophomore RHP Michael Wakefield replaced Bogue and got the first Demon batter to strike out. But the next batter singled scoring two runs to make it 7-0. The final out was a 2-6 caught stealing from Gunther to shortstop Zack Cozart.

The final line on Bogue was four earned runs on one hit with two walks, two hit batters and no strikeouts.

"I did OK," said Wakefield, who was replaced in the seventh by LHP junior Tommy Baumgardner, and allowed one earned run on three hits with two walks and two strikeouts. "I gave up the two-out hit (which scored two runs) and that didn't help us. Our defense really made great plays. We really had a good defensive game tonight. I wish we could have pulled it out."

The Demon lead was cut to 7-2 after three complete on a C.J. Ketchum RBI single and also a fielder's choice from Stephen Head which scored a run.

Neither team scored in the fourth but the Rebs added two more in the bottom of the fifth and one in the bottom of the sixth.

The Demons tacked on another in the top of the seventh, and that run proved to be the difference. In the bottom of the seventh, the Rebels got two runs on an Alex Presley RBI single to left which also scored Wright, who had reached on a fielder's choice and was able to then get home on Presley's single which the center fielder let get past him for an error.

Neither team scored in the final two frames. The Rebels – Cooper Osteen, Chris Coghlan, and Stephen Head – went strike out, fly out, and ground out in the eighth.

In the ninth and needing one run to stay alive, the Rebels – Brian Pettway, Justin Henry, and Mark Wright – went fly out, fly out, fly out.

Final numbers on Baumgardner were two and thirds innings pitched, three hits and three strikeouts with no runs.

Leading Ole Miss at the plate were Osteen who was 2-for-5, Ketchum 2-for-4 with 2 RBI, Jon Jon Hancock 2-for-3, Alex Presley 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Zack Cozart 2-for-4.

Bianco did not feel there was impatience at the plate by the Rebels in the final two innings.

"When you don't get hits, it looks like you're impatient," he said. "It wasn't like he was walking people. We were swinging at good pitches. We had opportunities and didn't get it done."

Bianco had positives to say about the opponent, who got 11 hits to the Rebels' 12 and improved to 10-4 on the season.

"Credit Northwestern State," he said. "To be hitting .247 coming in and to swing like that and get those hits, they hit the ball really well. The third inning it just kinda blew up on us. It's tough to come back, but we made a run for it.

"We have to learn to win these type of games," Bianco said after the Rebels' third one-run loss of the season. "We have to learn to not just get close but to win. And we have yet to learn that yet."

Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Swayze Field, the same two teams meet again. Pitching for Ole Miss will be Matt Maloney (Jr., LHP, 1-0, 0.00 ERA), and for the Demons it will be Derek Cloeren (Fr., RHP, 2-0, 1.56 ERA).

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