Rebs have hard time at plate against Samford

Samford starting pitcher Eric Lassiter kept Rebel bats at bay, and his Bulldog team won 3-2 in Oxford Wednesday.

It wasn't Texas dramatic. It's still February and there were about 8,000 less folks in the place.

But when sophomore Jon-Jon Hancock stood at the plate with teammates on second and third, it had a little postseason anxiousness to it, although nothing to rival last June.

Samford beat 19th-ranked Ole Miss 3-2 Wednesday on yet another not-so-baseball-like day in Oxford as it rained off and on and a thick fog engulfed the playing field in the late innings. The temperature was the warmest it's been through four games this season, reaching 50 degrees. But the Rebels, especially their bats, weren't even that warm on this day.

"There are no excuses," said junior center fielder Alex Presley after the Rebs had only four hits as a team. "Their pitcher (junior RHP Eric Lassiter) did a good job and made us have to hit the ball. He did a good job of spotting up, had a good day, and we weren't able to get anything going."

It was about as simple as that as one Rebel batter after another couldn't get that something going. Cody Overbeck tried to. Just like Tuesday, the redshirt freshman launched one out of the ballpark, the latest one putting Ole Miss up 1-0 in the bottom of the second.

"I got a curve ball first pitch, and I knew a fast ball was coming," said Overbeck, who got the start in left field after starting the first three games in right. "I just got it up in the air and hit it solid and it went over. I hope it's becoming routine, but you never know."

The Rebels maintained their lead until the top of the sixth when the Bulldogs, now 3-2 on the season, chased Rebel starter Brett Bukvich with two runs for a 2-1 lead. The redshirt freshman LHP was in his first start as a Rebel pitcher.

"I got ahead of a bunch of hitters which helped me out," said Bukvich, who went five and a third, allowing no earned runs on five hits with one walk and five strikeouts. "I started getting the curveball over, but really staying ahead helped me a lot. They (Bulldogs) battled hard and hit some balls hard. I wish I could have finished out that sixth inning. I felt like I was on, but I guess that was about as far as I could go today."

Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said the weather and the fact that it was a midweek non-conference game against a team the Rebels had beaten 11-4 with 18 hits the previous day should have made no difference.

"We play so many games, that can't be an excuse," Bianco said after his team fell to 3-1 on the year. "You're playing a midweek game and maybe you're not up emotionally, or it rained......those are just excuses. We should be past that now. It's a 3 o'clock game, and it's been on the schedule all along, and we should go about our business.

"But I did think we were too relaxed," the sixth-year head coach continued. "Not that we weren't into the game, I just thought guys were waiting for somebody else to get a hit rather than in the last two games where it seemed like one through nine got a hit, and it was always somebody different. Today nobody besides Overbeck seemed to get an inning going or really get us going."

Down 3-1, the Rebels still had a shot in the bottom of the ninth. Junior right fielder Mark Wright, in his first action of the season, singled up the middle. JoJo Tann came in to pinch run for Wright but was thrown out on a fielder's choice as Presley reached first. After Presley stole second, C.J. Ketchum flew out to center, and Presley advanced to third.

Hoping not to give up another home run, Samford pitched carefully to Overbeck, who walked. Evan Button came in to pinch run for Overbeck and stole second.

With Presley on third and Button on second, Hancock was up. Samford pitcher Daniel Davidson, who had relieved Lassiter after seven and two-thirds, stood on the mound with a 3-2 count on Hancock. All kinds of possibilities were at hand - including loading the bases, a clutch hit or a home run, or, as in Hancock's case, a strikeout to end it.

After Bukvich had left the game, junior LHP Craig Rodriguez went two and a third, allowing one earned run on four hits with two strikeouts. Senior RHP Stoney Stone went the final inning and a third with no further damage.

For the Rebels, it was one of those games. We see them every year, sometimes several times a season. In baseball it happens. Last year Ole Miss began a record-breaking season of 48 wins with a 5-3 mark, including losses to Southern Illinois and Northwestern (La.) State.

Bianco said some games just unfold like the one the Rebels lost on Wednesday.

"Sometimes you sit there and scratch your head and there's still no better answer than 'That's baseball,' " he said. "People who don't watch a lot of baseball might wonder how you can get 18 hits and score that many runs on one day and get only four hits the next day. Their pitcher today was just a little more on, and we were a little more off. Sometimes, that's all it takes. It's still disappointing though, but you have to give them credit.

"We're still a good team," he continued. "We're still the same team we were yesterday and we were last weekend. But it is disappointing to have a day like this. It always is."

Ole Miss gets a chance to rebound with a three-game series in Oxford against the Maine Black Bears, with games Friday at 3 p.m., Saturday at 1:30 p.m., and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

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