On Oxford Park Commission Youth Baseball Night at Swayze Field, Zack Cozart had the most kids gathered 'round him for the national anthem before the game. But the Rebel shortstop said impressing the youngsters wasn't actually on his mind moments later when he hit a grand slam in the bottom of the first to put Ole Miss up 7-2 early as the Rebels rolled to a 13-4 win over Southeastern Louisiana.
"You want to win for the team and you also want to give the fans a good show," said Cozart, a true freshman who is now batting .269 with seven home runs on the season, and with another grand slam earlier against Purdue. "You usually don't get up to bat with the bases loaded, so you try to take advantage of it."
And take advantage of it he did as a couple hundred youth baseball kids from t-ball to teenagers watched him send it out to the left field terrace.
"That was pretty neat for all the kids to come out there with us," he said of the pregame moment. "It's good that we do that. I guess we're kinda like their idols out there, and it's neat to let them run out there to the position they want to go to."
And neat for them to see a young college player becoming a prominent part of his team at such an early stage in his career. Cozart says right now things seem to be easy for him at the plate.
"It's just one of those things where you feel the power stroke," said Cozart, who went 2-for-4 with 6 RBI against the Lions after going 5-for-12 with two home runs and 3 RBI against Mississippi State over the weekend. "For some reason right now I'm just getting good backspin on the ball and it's just going out. I feel pretty good at the plate right now."
Cozart's homer came after the Rebs were already up 3-2 in the first. After the visitors from Hammond moved out in front 2-0 in the top of the first, the Rebels came back quickly. Ole Miss sent 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first for a 7-2 lead after one.
The Rebels only had three hits in the first but SLU committed two errors and Lion starting pitcher Anthony Masson walked three Rebels to hurt his own cause.
"They kicked the ball around a little but and gave us some opportunities," said Mark Wright, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI. "We wanted to come out and swing it well. We've talked all year about getting the big hit and that's what we were able to do today."
Neither team scored again until the Rebs added a run in the sixth and five more in the seventh for a 13-2 lead. SLU got two in the ninth to close out the scoring for the night.
The Lions actually outhit the Rebels 15-13 in the game. Starter Anthony Cupps (7-3) got the win, while Jon-Jon Hancock and Travis Bogue each threw an inning late.
Masson, one of three pitchers used by the Lions, got the loss and is now 1-1.
Wright said the Rebels made sure before the game that they put the big three-game sweep of Mississippi State behind them.
"We talked about that in the locker room," he said. "Every day's a new day, and you have to come to play."
Ole Miss, 33-13 on the year now, will play again Wednesday night as Murray State comes to Oxford for a 6:30 p.m. The Thoroughbreds are 23-22 on the season.
Bianco will send redshirt freshman Will Kline (1-2, 9.64 ERA in 14 relief appearances) to the mound agaisnt MSU, while the visitors will start junior LHP Jake Ociesa (3-5, 5.61 ERA).
"Will Kline will get the start," said Bianco, who got his 183rd victory at Ole Miss on his 38th birthday Tuesday night. "He's one of the few guys that hasn't gotten a start yet, and we're going to try to pitch a handful of guys tomorrow night."
Rebs score early and roll against SLU
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