Pitching, defense, and timely sac flies helped the 14th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels win the deciding game of the first Southeastern Conference series of 2005 Sunday with a 3-2 victory against 6th-ranked Florida.
Pitching by both the Rebels and Gators was outstanding on this day, as was the defense of both teams - neither with an error.
The Rebels trailed 2-1 going into the bottom of the fifth. Ole Miss got two runs that inning on back to back sac flies by Jon-Jon Hancock and Barry Gunther to put the Rebels up 3-2, a lead that would hold up the rest of the way.
Alex Presley led off the fifth with a base hit to right. Zack Cozart then doubled to right to put runners on second and third.
That's when Hancock flew to center to score Presley and move Cozart to third. Gunther followed with an identical fly ball to center, scoring Cozart.
"Those sac flies can be important, too," said Gunther, without a hit on the day but with the all-important RBI that put the Rebs up to stay. "Sometimes you don't get the hits or hit the ball as well as you'd like. But when you come up in those type situations, it's important to get the ball in the outfield.
"Maybe I will do that next time without getting two strikes first," joked the senior co-captain catcher. "Take a little pressure off myself."
The Rebels didn't seem like a team that played with pressure this weekend, at least not the last two days. The maturity and business-like approach came through following a tough 5-4 loss to Florida on Friday night.
"We had to come back and win on Saturday and Sunday, and that's what we set our minds to do," said senior second baseman Cooper Osteen. "We just went out to take care of business."
One Rebel who has taken care of business at the plate every game is Brian Pettway. The junior outfielder has at least one hit in every contest so far.
In Sunday's win, Pettway was just 1-for-2, but his RBI single in the 4th tied the score 1-1 as he drove Osteen in from third. Osteen had reached on a base hit to left center, moved to second on a balk, and to third on a ground out by Chris Coghlan to the first baseman.
Pettway's Sunday hit tied him with former Rebels Kary Bridges (1992) and Chad Sterbens (2002) for a school-record 21-game hitting streak.
"I really didn't know that it was 21 games," said the always low-key Pettway. "It is exciting, I guess. Hopefully I can keep it going.
"What I'd really like is a 56-game hitting streak," quipped Pettway, smiling and bringing laughter to the media surrounding him - college baseball is 56 games long during the regular season.
Sunday's win was also about pitching as starter Anthony Cupps, reliever Tommy Baumgardner, and, in this case, closer Matt Maloney kept the Gators shut down the final four innings.
"It was fun out there today," said Cupps, who went five and a third allowing two runs on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts. "It's pretty competitive when you know their pitcher is holding your team down a bit too. He was going at it too, and that made it fun. I felt I had good stuff, good command out there today."
Florida starter Tommy Boss almost matched Cupps' outing, going five and two-thirds, with three runs on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts.
Baumgardner came in to finish the sixth and got Florida to ground into a double play.
Maloney had gone three and a third Friday night in relief of starter Mark Holliman. He said after that game he knew that it was likely he would be out there again today.
"Coach (Bianco) asked me before the game today how I felt," Maloney said. "I knew I had a good chance to go in. I felt fine and really felt better today than I did Friday night. It was a close game, and it was important for me to go in and pitch well."
Cupps got the win to move to 4-1, while Boss, one of three pitchers used by the Gators, was charged with the loss and is now 3-1.
Ole Miss outhit Florida six to five in game three. The Rebels were errorless on the weekend.
Bianco said Sunday was a big win for the Rebels.
"Usually Sundays are about offense, but certainly today was a pitching and defense day," he said. "We were just able to do it a little better than they did."
Ole Miss, 17-4 on the season and 2-1 in SEC play, now travels to Memphis for a 6:30 p.m. game Tuesday with the Memphis Tigers at Autozone Park.
Florida fell to 16-5 and 1-2.
Next weekend, Ole Miss travels to Knoxville for three games against Tennessee.
Rebels take series with 3-2 win over Florida
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