Stephen Head strolled up to the media postgame Saturday. He had a t-shirt folded up in his hand.
It was the t-shirt with the number 16 on it. You know the tradition. For years now the Ole Miss baseball program has given a t-shirt after each win to the most valuable player of the game. No doubt who would get Saturday's.
All the junior All-American did in the Rebels' 10-4 win over Florida was get the victory on the mound as the starting (and winning) pitcher, go 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBI, including a single, a double, and a home run.
So what if he'd gotten a triple, too, he was asked.
"I guess I'd still have just gotten this shirt," he said, pulling it out to take a look at it.
The t-shirt and Stephen Head. Those were only part of today's Ole Miss win.
The 14th-ranked Rebels certainly needed to bounce back from Friday night's 5-4 Southeastern Conference season opening loss to 6th-ranked Florida. They did so in a big way, and some of it came at the expense of a former Rebel.
Alan Horne, the junior right-hander who started for the Gators, spent the early part of his career at Ole Miss after being a first-round draft pick out of high school. The Rebels got to him in the third Saturday.
A solo home run by Mark Wright to left had given the Rebs a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second, but the Gators answered in the top of the third with a two-run homer from Matt Laporta, who had hit the game-winning home run for the Gators the previous night.
But in the bottom of the third, Ole Miss put up four runs and chased Horne from the game with all the damage done and two outs in the inning. The final line on the former Rebel pitcher turned Gator was five runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
But the Rebels didn't stop there. With Head cruising on the mound the rest of the way, Ole Miss added a run in the fourth and two in the fifth to lead 8-2 after five complete.
The Rebels, who moved to 16-4 overall and 1-1 in SEC play, put an exclamation point on the game in the bottom of the seventh when Head and Brian Pettway belted back to back solo homers.
Will Kline relieved Head heading into the ninth and gave up a two-run home run, but it was way too little too late for Florida, which fell to 16-5 and 1-1.
UM Coach Mike Bianco said Head had one of those special days he is known for.
"Stephen's one of those guys who can just elevate his game. When the game's on the line and it's a big game, if you need him he's there," Bianco said. "Offensively, defensively, and on the mound. I don't think he gets enough credit for the pitching. His hitting often overshadows his pitching. But no doubt he's a big time player."
Florida Coach Pat McMahon agreed.
"Stephen Head is not only one of the best players in this conference but also in the country," he said. "Offensively, defensively, and on the mound, there aren't many better. He just is an outstanding player, and he was again today."
Head said he felt good today, even in the bullpen before the contest.
"The two runs they scored was a mistake by me on a pitch," said Head, who had 9 strikeouts. "I had it today. I knew I had it in the bullpen. I just felt it out there."
Head was asked about the home run battle between himself with seven homers and Pettway's eight round-trippers.
"This was fun," he said. "Today was awesome. The three-four hole (Head-Pettway home run) battle is a lot of fun for us. We're competing with each other, and that helps the team."
Pettway got back to back home runs in the game. He hit a two-run shot in the fifth and a solo homer right after Head's blast in the seventh. Pettway has at least one hit in all 20 games this season.
"I got a couple of home runs which helped the team win, and that's the most important thing," said Pettway, who also mentioned that he doesn't really think home run when he steps to the plate. "I'm just swinging. I've just been trying to find the stroke I need and put good bat on it. Some go out and some don't."
Bianco said the Rebels were able to do some positive things, especially offensively, that they couldn't get done Friday night.
"We were able to bunch some at-bats together today, either by walk or base hit," he said. "It was disappointing we couldn't do that last night. We didn't get a lot more hits today (eight hits Friday to 11 hits Saturday). We were just more effective today because we bunched them together and got some home runs."
The Rebels and Gators finish the series at 12 noon Sunday. Because of Florida travel, the game was moved up from the usual 1:30 p.m. Sunday start.
Junior RHP Anthony Cupps (3-1, 4.01 ERA) will go for the Rebels, while senior RHP Tommy Boss (3-0, 4.24 ERA) will pitch for the Gators.
Head, Pettway lead Rebs to 10-4 win over Florida
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