Eric Fowler had pitched against Mississippi State in the Rebels' 5-1 win over the Bulldogs a month ago in Jackson. On Sunday an even more confident Fowler pitched the Rebels to a 9-1 win over MSU as the Rebels swept State.
"What a great job Eric's done and really deserved better fates than he's had in some games," said Bianco of Fowler, who is now 3-2 on the season. "He could easily be 3-0 in the SEC right now (with his other two starts at LSU on Sunday and against Georgia in Oxford last Sunday). I like the way today he went out and really competed and won the game. We challenged him this week in his bullpen work not to just pitch well but to pitch well and win. Certainly he gave us a great effort today."
Fowler, the fourth-year junior from Duck Hill, went six complete, allowing one run on three hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. The Rebels led 5-1 when he gave way to reliever Stephen Head to start the seventh.
Fowler's biggest jam came in the sixth when, with runners on first and third and one out, he got Bulldog Brian LaNinfa to strikeout and Brad Jones to fly out.
"I thought I probably pitched better in Jackson," said Fowler, who held the Bulldogs at bay that night allowing just three hits and no runs in seven and two-thirds innings with 11 strikeouts and no walks. "It seemed like everything I threw that night was in the zone, and I kept them off balance. My slider wasn't working today quite as good as I needed it to. But I came back with a fast ball and spotted it up good to let them get themselves out on a fast ball. I just found a way with my fast ball, then maybe I'd throw the next pitch slider and let 'em pop up or ground out."
Head came in for the final three innings and even got more run support from the offense as the Rebs added four runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Ole Miss took a 2-0 lead in the third inning as Miles Franklin led off with a double and later scored on a base hit by Head. Cooper Osteen, who had reached on a walk, stole second, and moved to third on Head's single, then scored on a Brian Pettway fly ball.
The Rebels added a run in the fourth when the Ole Miss coaches called a suicide squeeze, a bunt with two outs and a runner heading home from third. Franklin bunted and reached as Zack Cozart, who had singled and moved to third on an MSU error, raced home for a 3-0 UM lead.
State got a run in the fifth on a solo home run shot by Ed Easley off Fowler. In the sixth, Ole Miss got two more on a two-run homer by Cozart which scored pinch runner Justin Henry who had entered for Jon-Jon Hancock after he had reached on a double.
Head gave up a couple of hits in the seventh before getting the Bulldogs out before stretch time. Not that Head normally needs any insurance with a five-run cushion, but just to be safe, the Rebs got him some.
MSU made a pitching change to start the seventh as Brett Cleveland relieved starter Jon Crosby. With one out, Chris Coghlan reached on a fielding error by MSU. Head then helped himself by reaching on a fielder's choice, with Coghlan out at second, followed by a single by Brian Pettway and another single by Alex Presley, which scored Head. Then up came Henry and a 3-run shot to put Ole Miss up by eight.
Head, who got his third save of the season, cruised as expected the final two frames as Ole Miss swept MSU in baseball for the first time since 1978.
Crosby (5-2) was charged with the loss.
Ole Miss outhit State 12-6 in the finale. It was the Rebels' first errorless SEC series since beating Florida two of three games in weekend one.
"You want to play well in all three phases, and we did that today," Bianco said. "Actually we did that all weekend."
"Our offense was good, our pitching was good, and we made no errors," said senior catcher Barry Gunther. "It's been a long time since we had a complete weekend like this."
"Our guys hit the ball fairly hard today, but we didn't get them through," said MSU Coach Ron Polk. "Fowler pitched well against us here and in Jackson. Henry's home run was a a real blow to our chances."
The Rebels, 32-13 overall and 12-9 in league action, play two home games this week, hosting Southeastern Louisiana Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and Murray State Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Mississippi State fell to 28-15 and 9-11.
Rebs roll 9-1 Sunday to sweep Dogs
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