The Ole Miss baseball coaches have been looking for a few more arms. Tuesday night in Oxford, Tommy Baumgardner proved he might just be one more that they've found.
The junior left-handed pitcher from Lakeland, Fla., and Indian River CC got his first start as a Rebel and went six and two/thirds innings, allowing one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts and a walk as the Rebels won 6-5 over Southeast Missouri State.
"I was happy with my performance," said Baumgardner. "My arm held up through 100-plus pitches. My main focus was to go as long as I could and as long as my arm held up. I felt like I got better as the game went on. We got a win so I'm happy."
Baumgardner said that while he got his first start as a Rebel, after four relief appearances this season, he is glad to be contributing in whatever way he can.
"If I start that's fine, if I relieve that's fine, if it's a midweek role that's fine," he said. "I just want to help us win."
UM head coach Mike Bianco said it was good to see Baumgardner perform so well for so long.
"I'm proud of the way Tommy pitched," said Bianco. "He battled his rear end off the whole game. He was tremendous. This was his longest outing, even counting intrasquads. We needed to see that from him, especially on a day we don't score a lot of runs and we play that poorly defensively."
Even though the Rebels won their ninth game in a row and moved to 14-3 on the season, Bianco was not at all pleased with his team's performance.
"We were atrocious in the field," he said. "I don't want to take anything away from Southeast Missouri. They really competed hard. We made life difficult for ourselves tonight and it shouldn't have been that way."
The Rebels committed three errors (originally scored as four but later changed to three) and had some trouble in the field on a cold night (temps in 40s) in Oxford. Ole Miss fell behind 2-0 in the top of the second on a couple of those errors.
The Rebels broke a 3-3 tie with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to lead 5-3. Brian Pettway got a base hit just over the outstretched glove of the Redhawks' shortstop, scoring Chris Coghlan who had reached on a SEMO error. After a balk by the SEMO pitcher, Justin Henry grounded to first, and Stephen Head, who had walked, got under the tag to score a run from third.
In the top of the ninth with Brian Pettway on the mound (after junior RHP Chris Moffett went an inning and a third in relief of Baumgardner with a strikeout and no hits or runs), the junior closer got two outs and then gave up a single. Then a Redhawk batter reached on the third official Rebel error of the night. A Chris Gibson base hit to right field plated two runs to tie the score.
In the bottom of the ninth, Chris Coghlan doubled to left center to lead things off. After SEMO intentionally walked Head, Pettway doubled to right center to score Coghlan and give the Rebs their 9th win in a row.
"After Coghlan got the leadoff double, I knew they'd walk Stephen," said Pettway, who was 2-for-4 on the night with 2 RBI. "I was looking forward to getting up there. As soon as I saw that happen, I couldn't wait. He threw me a 2-1 fastball over the plate, and I just hit it hard and drove it into the gap.
"We put up 10 hits and scored six runs," continued Pettway, who has now hit in 17 consecutive games - every contest this season. "So I guess it's the mark of a good team to be able to come back from all that (defensive struggles) and still win the game. We didn't play great baseball but we got a win."
Still Bianco wasn't happy - except for the victory.
"It's disappointing that we make it look this difficult," he said. "It's still nice to have enough punch in the lineup to get the job done at the end, and we do have that with this team. But we'd been playing well, winning eight in a row before tonight. So to come out tonight and play this poorly is disappointing."
Wednesday's game against SEMO, now 6-8 on the season, has been moved to 2 p.m. from an original 6:30 p.m. start due to a poor weather forecast. Junior LHP Eric Fowler will start for the Rebs.
Rebs win 9th straight with 6-5 victory over SEMO
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