Sixth-ranked Ole Miss headed into Sunday's rubber game with 23rd-ranked Vanderbilt hoping not to have a holdover from an uncharacteristically bad showing in Saturday's 7-4 loss. Didn't happen.
After Ole Miss got nothing in the top of the first Sunday, a 3-run Vandy bottom of the inning kick-started the Commodores, and the Rebels never caught up in a 7-2 VU victory.
"It starts with pitching and their guy (David Price) was really on," Coach Mike Bianco said of the Vandy freshman who went 7 and two-thirds innings allowing one earned run on four hits with three walks and nine strikeouts. "We were hoping he would get behind and walk some people. Of course the other side is that we don't pitch very well today. Credit them. For two days in a row they got the timely hits and the runs across."
Vanderbilt got to Rebel starter Anthony Cupps quickly as the Commodores set a tone early with five first-inning hits which led to those three runs. The entire Rebel team as well as VU batter Warner Jones took two steps toward the dugout on what appeared to be a third strike that would have gotten the Rebels out of the frame only down 1-0. But the home plate umpire didn't make a move. Jones took advantage and followed the ball call with a single to left center, and the door remained open as the Commdores went on to add two more runs before Cupps got Aaron Garza to strike out to end it.
Ole Miss, which fell to 21-7 on the season and 5-4 in SEC play, scored two runs in the top of the third as the first three batters - Zack Cozart, Barry Gunther, and Cooper Osteen - all reached; Zack and Barry on base hits and Coop on a throwing error by the pitcher to first. Cozart scored on the throwing error, and Gunther came home on a fly ball to left by Chris Coghlan.
With Osteen on first, Rebel big hitters Stephen Head and Brian Pettway, who were a combined 5-for-25 on the weekend, both struck out.
Vanderbilt, which improved to 20-7 and 5-4, went three up three down to Cupps in the bottom of the third, and the Rebels were poised to take the lead in the top of the fourth, down just 3-2. Clearly a rattled freshman starter after the previous inning, Price walked Mark Wright to lead off the fourth and then hit Jon-Jon Hancock.
But the Rebel coaches were going to force Alex Presley to bunt, and after two strikes, he was called out on a third strike bunt, which seemed to take much of the momentum away from a Rebel team already on the brink.
If that situation didn't do it, Cozart was then robbed of a double by Commodore center fielder Antoan Richardson which would have scored at least one run to tie the game. Here was the situation.
Cozart ripped one into what appeared to be the gap between center and left. Richardson raced to his left and made a diving catch as runners Wright and Hancock took off from first and second respectively. Richardson simply threw the ball to an awaiting first baseman Mike Baxter for a double play. Rebel shoulders sagged and heads dropped and it was as if Vandy could sense it, too. The Commodores went right to work, chasing Cupps after a two RBI single by Rucker Taylor, and adding an RBI double by Baxter off reliever Matt Maloney for another run and a 6-2 lead after four.
Plenty of innings remained, but no doubt Vandy was in complete control of this one. Body language by each team spoke volumes. Ole Miss got only one hit the last six innings - a double by Coghlan in the eighth.
A solo Vandy home run by Jones in the sixth ended the scoring for the day.
The Rebels had 12 strikeouts on Sunday and 32 for the weekend.
Pettway's 27-game hitting streak this season ended today with an 0-for-3 performance.
"They got a couple of breaks in the first inning today and some things went their way early," Bianco said. "And we weren't able to respond when we had the chances."
The Rebels' next chance to respond is Tuesday night at USM. Junior LHP Eric Fowler will face the Golden Eagles. Ole Miss beat Southern Miss 9-1 earlier in the season in Oxford.
Vandy rolls past Rebs in Sunday finale
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