Fowler has strong day as UM shuts out SEMO

The 14th-ranked Rebels take the two-game series from the Redhawks with a 3-0 Wednesday afternoon victory. Next up: Florida this weekend in Oxford for 3 games.

The search for more arms continued Wednesday at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field. In this one, the Rebel coaches looked to an older but familiar arm.

Eric Fowler, the left-handed junior from Duck Hill and also Grenada's Kirk Academy, pitched maybe his best game ever at Ole Miss in the Rebels' 3-0 win over Southeast Missouri State.

"No doubt it was my best outing (as a Rebel)," said Fowler, who made three relief appearances earlier in the season. "I was hitting my spots every time. I was getting ahead in the count, and everything was just working."

Fowler worked seven innings (and one batter into the eighth, his only walk of the game) allowing four hits and no runs facing 24 batters. But it was a career-high nine strikeouts that may have been most impressive in his performance.

"It was real good to come out here and get a start," said Fowler, who had made 16 career starts in his first two seasons. "My fast ball was on and I was hitting the corners with it. I came in with a slider for a strikeout pitch. It just all worked out well today."

Fowler said he knew he was going to come out when he did, which was after one batter in the eighth. But it didn't quite go according to plan.

"Coach told me to go in and get the left-handed hitter out and he'd bring in (Jon-Jon) Hancock," Fowler said. "I walked him and I just think I was trying to throw it real hard, knowing it was my last batter. I knew that 3-2 count was going to be my last pitch of the day, so I reached back and tried to put a little extra on it and just left it up high."

Bianco was very happy with what he saw in Fowler's performance.

"Eric has pitched a lot of innings for us the past few years," he said. "He's even started some SEC games. So I'm not completely surprised, but I am proud of him for hanging in there after a slow start this year."

Bianco said Fowler showed a lot of guts and character in pitching so well against the Redhawks after three relief appearances including a tough loss at Rice earlier.

"Ours is a very unforgiving game, and it's a tough game," he said. "There are a lot of failures mixed in with the success. He's had a couple of tough outings. Today he hung in there and showed why he has pitched so much for us over the years. Hopefully this will help him get on a roll for us."

Brutally cold and also damp conditions helped keep this one from being an offensive contest. Neither team scored until the Rebels got two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Stephen Head singled to score Miles Franklin who had walked. Later with the bases loaded Alex Presley walked which scored a run.

In the bottom of the sixth, another Head base hit scored a run as Justin Brashear came home following a lead-off walk.

Hancock finished the eighth with a strikeout and two ground outs, while Michael Wakefield closed it out in the ninth with a hit and a strikeout.

"When Jon-Jon and Michael came in, it's a 3-0 game, so there's not a lot of room for error," Bianco said. "I'm proud of the way they came in and pitched as well."

Fowler is now 1-1 with the win, and Wakefield got the save, his first of the year.

Ole Miss, ranked 14th and now 15-3 on the season, plays sixth-ranked Florida, 15-4, at 6:30 p.m. Friday, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and 12 noon Sunday in Oxford.

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