Rebs fall to Gators 5-4 in series opener

Florida and Ole Miss play game two at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Oxford.

The 6th-ranked Florida Gators came to Oxford looking for something that program hadn't done since 1997 - win a baseball game at Swayze Field. In the 2005 series opener, the Gators got that elusive win.

The Gators got 13 hits off Rebel ace Mark Holliman and top reliever Matt Maloney, while Florida pitching held the 14th-ranked Rebels to eight hits - two of them solo home runs by Stephen Head and Brian Pettway in the 5-4 UF victory.

Florida committed three errors in the game to none for the Rebels. In this close affair, the Gators were just a little better than the Rebels in almost every area. That's the way Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco saw it.

"We just got outplayed tonight. That's the bottom line," Bianco said. "We just didn't do enough to win the game. They played well. They outhit us and outpitched us."

Holliman went five and two/thirds innings, allowing four earned runs on nine hits with six strikeouts and three walks. Maloney relieved Holliman with two outs and a Gator on second base in the top of the sixth, and although he walked the first batter and gave up a single immediately after that, he was able to get a strikeout to end the inning with no damage.

With the game tied 4-4 at that point, the usually reliable Maloney gave up a leadoff solo home run in the top of the seventh. The rest of the way he was pretty solid. But that one haunted him postgame.

"I was up and down in the bullpen and really didn't know when I was coming in," Maloney said. "I walked the first guy and missed some spots with my pitches but got out of that one. Then the next inning I hung a changeup and it was a mistake pitch and he hit it out."

Bianco and Maloney both agreed that Maloney most likely could pitch again this weekend if needed.

"We sent him down there (to the bullpen) in the fourth," Bianco said. "Certainly you hate to use him in a loss, but that's part of it."

"I would imagine I could pitch Sunday if I am needed," Maloney said. "I don't think I will pitch Saturday."

Holliman said falling behind hitters killed him Friday night.

"It seemed like everytime I got behind in the count they got a hit," he said. "One of my main problems tonight was falling behind in the count and not being able to battle back."

Early in the game the Rebels stayed one run ahead of the Gators. In the bottom of the first, Cooper Osteen doubled and later scored on a Chris Coghlan ground out. After Florida tied it in the top of the second, the Rebels added a run on a Zack Cozart RBI single which scored Mark Wright who had made it all the way to second base on a Gator error.

After Florida got two runs in the top of the third to go up 3-2, the Rebels answered with the Head and Pettway solo shots to lead 4-3 after three. The Gators added a run in the fifth to tie it at 4-4. But it was the leadoff solo blast to left by Matt LaPorta that proved to be the final blow of the game for the Rebels.

Florida had been swept three straight series here - 1999, 2001, and 2003. Friday night's game was the first Gator victory in Oxford since March 30, 1997. Until Friday night, the Gators had lost 10 games in a row in Oxford.

Last season Ole Miss swept Florida in Gainesville.

The winning pitcher Friday night was Florida starter Bryan Ball, who went seven and a third with four runs, two earned, with five strikeouts and no walks. Conner Falkenbach came in for Ball and finished things up, with a hit and a strikout and one hit batsman. But most importantly no runs.

Maloney (4-1) was charged with the loss.

"We just couldn't do it offensively tonight," Head said. "We came out swinging early and then just shut it down offensively. We played well defensively, but college baseball is all about offense. We just didn't get it done tonight."

"We just couldn't put the at-bats together tonight," Bianco said. "We just couldn't put enough together to win this one.

"The bottom line," Bianco concluded, "is that their guys pitched better than our guys, and their guys hit better than our guys."

Game two between Ole Miss and Florida is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Stephen Head (LHP, Jr., 3-0, 3.48 ERA) will pitch for the Rebels, while Alan Horne (RHP, Jr., 1-1, 4.87 ERA) will be on the mound for the Gators.

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