NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Coach Mike Bianco said it was the key hit of the game. As a matter of fact, he said it was the game.
Alex Presley - the Rebels' fast-running, sure-fielding, consistent-hitting sometimes center fielder, sometimes left fielder - came to bat in the top of the sixth in game one at Vanderbilt with the bases loaded, right after Brian Pettway and Mark Wright had struck out swinging with the Rebs trailing 2-1.
On the first pitch of Presley's at-bat from Commodore starter Jensen Lewis, the sophomore from Monroe, La., laced a 2 RBI single to left center - right between his two outfield positions, no less - to give Ole Miss a 3-2 edge, a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the night in a 6-2 series-opening victory.
"We had bases loaded, and I knew we had to get some momentum," said Presley, 2-for-4 on the night and now batting .333 for the year. "We couldn't get out of that inning with nothing."
Bianco agreed and said it turned things in the Rebels' favor in a bigtime way.
"When Pettway and Wright didn't get them in, I thought Alex's hit was huge," Bianco said. "It was just a back-breaker for them, a big hit that scored two runs. Not only do they not get out of the inning, they don't get out of it and lose their lead. I just thought that was the ballgame right there."
Ole Miss added a run each in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings just to make sure that it was "the ballgame." In the bottom of the ninth, Bianco called on Matt Maloney to slam the door on the 'Dores - and he did just that with three strikeouts.
"It's something we haven't done in a couple of weeks," Bianco said of the Friday win. "It all starts on the mound, and Mark was tremendous tonight. The first inning he hit some spots and threw the ball 90-93 miles an hour. They were just ready to hit the fast ball. We should have thrown some breaking balls early and got them off balance. The first run they scored (in the bottom of the first inning) and the second run (in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead) really were my fault. Mark was awfully good tonight."
Holliman, who went eight innings with two runs on eight hits with nine strikeouts and two walks, said he was pleased to finally get a win in the SEC - especially a win for the team.
"I've been just trying to go from week to week and get ready for the next time I pitch," said the veteran righty now 4-1 with a 4.11 ERA. "I was throwing it in the zone early, and they were just hitting it. After that, things went better. And offensively we scored some runs which really helped. We just started hitting and kept hitting and scoring every inning, it seemed."
Bianco was impressed with Vandy starter Lewis, who was 5-0 prior to getting the loss to the Rebs.
"Lewis was everything we thought he would be," Bianco said of the junior righty, who in six and a third innings gave up seven hits with eight strikeouts and one walk but only one earned run - the Commodores had 3 errors in the contest which attributed to three unearned runs. "He was tough and struck out a lot of guys early. Our guys just couldn't figure him out with him mixing the changeup and the fast ball. But our offense hung in there and kept competing."
The Rebels, now 21-5 overall and 5-2 in the SEC, have been winning series while losing on Fridays lately. Presley said they are ready to win one with a Friday win already in the bag.
"It feels good to get a win on Friday night," he said after the Rebels outhit the Commodores 12-8. "There's less pressure going into the last two days when you win on Friday, but you still have to come out and play hard and try just as hard as you would if you lose on Friday."
Presley hasn't had the big numbers he posted last season as a freshman, but he is quietly having a solid first half of the season.
"I haven't been hitting the home runs or hitting with some of the power I did last year," he said. "If you ask most people, they probably don't think I'm hitting that high (.333 average). To not be swinging as well as I want to and to still be where I am now, I feel pretty good about it."
Pettway extended his school-record hitting streak to 26 games this season with an RBI single in the fourth, his only hit of the contest.
Rebel second baseman Cooper Osteen was 3-for-4 on the night. In addition to Presley's 2-for-4 night, third baseman Chris Coghlan was also 2-for-4 with 2 RBI.
LHP Stephen Head (junior, 5-0, 3.20 ERA) will go for the Rebs Saturday, while LHP Ryan Mullins (junior, 3-0, 3.00 ERA) takes the hill for the 'Dores, who fell to 18-7 on the season and 3-4 in league play.
Gametime is 12 noon and the contest is to be televised live on CSS. The game will be shown on Ole Miss cable channel 66 on the UM campus.
Rebels take game one at Vandy
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