Maloney pitches gem as Rebs beat State 5-0

The Rebels, 31-13 overall and 11-9 in SEC play, go for a sweep of State, 28-14, 9-10, Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Matt Maloney has had quite a season.

He started the year as a reliever. Then he moved to weekend starter.

On Saturday, his fourth Southeastern Conference Saturday start of 2005, Maloney was at his best yet.

The Rebel junior left-hander allowed only two Mississippi State hits as Ole Miss won 5-0 in game two of the series after taking game one earlier in the day 11-4 - a game suspended from Friday night because of storms.

"Just a great performance out of Matt," said UM Coach Mike Bianco after Maloney pitched a complete game shutout, not walking a batter and allowing only one other Bulldog than the two who got hits to reach by hitting him. "A complete game shutout in the SEC means you had a really good day. I thought he commanded the zone and had a really dominant fast ball, in and out, kept them off balance. Threw enough breaking balls into the strike zone. He really didn't have his best fast ball today, and by that I mean his velocity. Certainly he had his best command. He kept them off balance and really made it look easy. That's very hard to do in college baseball, to get 27 outs and make it look that easy."

Maloney said he was indeed "on" Saturday, even if his whole arsenal wasn't.

"I didn't really have all my pitches working," said Maloney, who moved to 5-1 this year with the longest outing of his UM career. "I was mainly fastball and slider. I was locating my fastball really well and felt comfortable with it."

Maloney said now that he has been starting for four weeks, his endurance is up.

"It was tough getting back into starting," he said. "It just took some work to get my arm strength back. Everything's good now."

MSU Coach Ron Polk was impressed.

"Everybody had told us Maloney was probably their best guy," said the veteran Bulldog mentor. "Tip your cap to Maloney. We've faced two good ones now in (Mark) Holliman, who was an All-American preseason pick, and now Maloney, who may end up being an All-American before it's over."

MSU starter Todd Doolittle gave the Bulldogs a chance as well, allowing only three runs on four hits through seven innings with four strikeouts and two walks.

But with Maloney on the mound, the Rebels got just enough offense against him to win the game, and the series, on Saturday.

Barry Gunther's two-out solo home run, his second round-tripper of the season and his second in as many games, put Ole Miss up 1-0 in the second. The Rebels added a run in the sixth when Brian Pettway's two-out single to left field scored Cooper Osteen, who had led off the inning with a walk, for a 2-0 UM advantage.

Ole Miss, which only outhit MSU 5 to 2, added a run for a 3-0 lead in the seventh when Gunther singled to right to score Justin Henry who had tripled to the right center wall.

In the bottom of the eighth, just like he had done last weekend, C.J. Ketchum got a hit as pinch hitter late in the game, this time scoring Osteen and Chris Coghlan who had both walked off relief pitcher Justin Pigott.

"I didn't really have time to warm up," said Ketchum, who got late RBI hits in both the Rebels' wins last weekend against Georgia. "My first goal was to just get loose. I didn't have a lot of time to get ready. Luckily I got a fast ball I could handle and hit it the other way. I guess I've just been in the right spot at the right time lately."

Ole Miss has now won 6 of its last 7 games against Mississippi State and 5 games in a row. The Rebels have now won back to back series (last year in Starkville and this year in Oxford) over State for the first time since 1982 when the Rebels won both series that year. Prior to 1986, the Rebels and Bulldogs met 6 times during the regular SEC season. Ole Miss last swept a 3-game series against Mississippi State in 1978.

Junior LHP Eric Fowler (2-2, 3.83 ERA) will start for Ole Miss Sunday at 1:30 p.m., while sophomore RHP Jon Crosby (5-1, 2.70 ERA) goes for State.

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