Ole Miss needed to find some offense Saturday after getting shutout by South Carolina Friday night. Eleven hits and seven runs later, they got what they were looking for in a 7-2 win to even the series at one game each.
Coach Mike Bianco even made some lineup changes for the contest as he moved Justin Henry to the leadoff spot, usual leadoff hitter Cooper Osteen to the sixth spot, and flipped Brian Pettway and Stephen Head - Pettway from cleanup to third and vice versa for Head.
Both Head and Pettway had productive days - Head going 3-for-4 with two RBI, and Pettway going 2-for-3 with an RBI.
"I thought we could shake things up a bit," Bianco said. "It's not about the lineup though. It's about having the at bats and getting the hits and taking the walks and doing those things. We did more of those today. Justin Henry did a good job leading off and getting on base, and Cooper Osteen got a couple of hits out of the six hole."
The Rebels had a chance to make some real noise in the first but managed just a run. With one out, Chris Coghlan reached on an error and Brian Pettway walked. Stephen Head singled to score Coghlan and move Pettway to third but soon thereafter got picked off first himself. Mark Wright struck out to end the inning as the Rebs led 1-0 after one.
Ole Miss added a run in the third on a solo Pettway homer, his team-leading 17th of the year. After the Rebs added another run in the fourth to lead 3-0, USC closed the gap with a two-run home run by third baseman Tommy King.
But the Rebels had a huge bottom of the sixth, scoring four runs to lead 7-2 and make way for Head to come in a close. Zack Cozart led off with a single to left, followed by a one-out single to right by Miles Franklin.
Henry was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Coghlan then walked to score Cozart for a 4-2 lead. USC starting pitcher Zac McCamie then balked, scoring Franklin for a 5-2 lead.
After Pettway struck out, Carolina changed pitchers, bringing in Forrest Beverly. Head immediately followed by reaching on a bunt which scored Henry to make it 6-2. A wild pitch by Beverly made it 7-2 as Coghlan scored. Wright grounded out to end it.
"Rumor has it that he (Head) was talking about (the bunt) before the game just because of the way they were playing him (Carolina shifted its infielders to the right with the short stop at second and the second baseman halfway to first)," Bianco said. "He's a very good bunter. I'll tell you one thing, I wasn't expecting it. It takes a lot of guts because of his stature and who he is and what he's done around the league the last few years to come in in an RBI opportunity and to bunt it and not swing. I'm glad he did."
"They put the shift on," Head said of his approach to the bunt. "The at bat before, they had really moved the third baseman over. I didn't necessarily notice, but when I went to the bullpen (to warm up to pitch), Coach (Kyle) Bunn told me that the third baseman was really playing you in the six hole. I looked up with runners on second and third and I knew I wasn't going to get a good pitch to hit facing the lefty. There was nobody there and all I had to do was hit it fair. I put it down. It was a curveball and the hard part was beating it out. I beat it out and got the run in."
Head then came in to pitch, replacing starter Matt Maloney. In the final three innings Head allowed no runs on three hits with three strikeouts.
Maloney had given up two runs on four hits through six innings with eight strikeouts and a walk. USC Coach Ray Tanner was impressed with both Rebel hurlers.
"With Maloney and Head, it's just hard to get a lot of runs," said Tanner, whose ballclub fell to 34-18 overall and 13-13 in SEC play. "You can't give them anything. We battled back with the Tommy King home run, but then they put up a four spot. Maloney is very, very good for them. He's one of the best pitchers we've seen all year. He pitched well against us last year, and he's better than he was a year ago."
Head got his fourth save of the season, while Maloney moved to 6-2 with the victory. USC's McCamie fell to 8-3.
The Rebels, now 36-16 and 14-12, and the Gamecocks decide the series at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Junior LHP Eric Fowler (4-2, 3.17 ERA) will pitch for Ole Miss. USC has not decided yet on a starter, although it is presumed to be either senior RHP Jason Fletcher (5-4, 3.63 ERA) or sophomore LHP Arik Hempy (1-0, 1.86 ERA).
Baseball Rebs even series with USC
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