Maybe it was indeed best that Tommy Baumgardner started game one and Nick Hetland game two. After all, while the sun was still up, it was best to have the Floridian on the mound, and then after sunset the Minnesotan on this chilly day in Oxford.
The temperature was in the low 40s when Baumgardner pitched the Rebels to a 9-1 victory over Saint Louis University in game one of Friday's unscheduled season-opening doubleheader. With the temps dipping into the 30s, it was Hetland who later got the win as the second-game starter in an 11-2 Ole Miss victory.
An impending winter storm forced the Ole Miss and Saint Louis coaches to play two games on Friday and hope to get one more in by Sunday afternoon rather than to play the scheduled one each day. Now they will wait and see if indeed a third game can be played within the next day and a half.
As for opening day, Baumgardner and Hetland, both new to the role of starter at this level of baseball, were equally elated with victories, both for themselves and for their team. But each had quite different feelings about the elements late on Friday night.
"It was a great night to pitch, a perfect night for baseball," said Hetland, whose game-two winning line read five innings pitched, no earned runs (two runs scored) on four hits with four strikeouts and three walks. "No problems with the weather for me. I was feeling good out there."
The other end of the climate spectrum?
"I think that's the coldest weather I've ever pitched in," said Baumgardner, the winner in game one who went seven innings allowing no runs on three hits with four strikeouts and two walks. "It took me a while to get loose in this chilly weather. But once I got warmed up, I felt great."
The Rebel bats did fine too, and they warmed up as the games went on. After a scoreless first three innings of game one, Ole Miss got five runs in the fourth inning to break that one open, the big shot a two-run home run down the right field line by junior center fielder Alex Presley, who ended that game 2-for-5 with three RBI in the leadoff spot.
Perhaps his coaches had a premonition of what he might do in game two and stuck the junior from Monroe, La., into the cleanup spot. All he did in that one was go 5-for-5 with two triples and six RBI.
In typical aw-shucks fashion, the low-key Presley said he just went out there and did his job.
"I just got a couple of good pitches to hit," said Presley (now if you haven't added all that together just yet, that's 7-for-10 in two games with two triples, a home run, and nine RBI). "I was impatient at first and I got a little more patient. I just got some strikes to hit and I capitalized on it."
Offensively for the Rebels it was fairly good day, too. Ole Miss pounded out 30 hits combined in the two games, while Rebel pitching held the Billikens to just nine hits on the day. Junior catcher Justin Brashear had the only other Rebel homer Friday, a solo shot in the fifth inning of game one.
"It's good when everybody comes out swinging the bats," Presley said. "You see other people hitting and that gives you confidence. You could probably tell that. A couple got hits and everybody started hitting. It got pretty contagious out there."
Relieving Baumgardner in game one was senior RHP Stoney Stone, who pitched two innings and gave up no earned runs (one unearned) on one hit with two strikeouts and no walks.
Ole Miss fell behind in the second game 2-0 in the top of the third but rallied to push four runs across in the bottom of the third to lead 4-2 and roll the rest of the way. Pitching in game two after Hetland were freshman RHP Lance Lynn, who went two innings, then walked two batters in a third inning (one hit and no runs with three strikeouts but four walks) and was replaced by freshman Jesse Simpson. The right-hander went the rest of the way with no damage and three strikeouts.
"An excellent start all the way around for us," said sixth-year Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco, who with the game-two victory on Friday won his 300th career game as a head coach, and got his 200th win at Ole Miss. The other 100 wins were during his three-year tenure at McNeese (La.) State.
"We had a couple of errors, but that's part of it," Bianco said. "It was a tough day to play baseball, and for the most part we played well. Offensively you can't ask for much more under these conditions with the wind blowing in. Proud of the guys on the mound. Tommy was fabulous in the first game, and Stoney was great. In the second game, the new guys - Hetland, Lynn, and Simpson - for their first college appearances in these conditions at this level, it was nice to see."
The starters said they were happy to get their first games - both wins - behind them.
"I wish I'd had a little bit more in me but I did what I could do," said Hetland, who mentioned he was in class Friday morning when he got the call that he would pitch Friday night rather than Saturday afternoon. "I was pretty calm out there. Sometimes I got a little ahead of myself and got a little anxious. Other than that, I was pleased for a first outing."
"We've got a lot of great bats, and they came along as I knew they would," Baumgardner said. "I just tried to keep my team in it until they did. It got a little bit easier after that. Great turnout today, great fan support, and I appreciate that. And no matter the weather, you've got to get it done."
The Rebels and Billikens will try to get one more game in to complete the series on Sunday.
Rebels win twinbill against Billikens
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