The Ole Miss Rebels had been searching for themselves lately, trying to find the real 18th-ranked baseball team they know they are.
Today they might have found themselves a bit as they rolled to a 10-0 win over Illinois-Chicago, just one day after the visiting Flames had beaten them 4-1 in the series opener.
Starter Cody Satterwhite got things rolling in the top of the first inning as the Flames hit into a double play after a one-out single. Then in the bottom of the first the Rebels got a little out of their comfort zone to make something happen offensively.
Alex Presley led off with a first-pitch bunt he said he called himself, followed by a sac bunt situation by C.J. Ketchum. Presley laid his down toward third and a throwing error by the third baseman allowed him to reach. Ketchum put his to the right of the mound and was able to reach first with nobody covering the bag as Presley headed for third.
The Rebels, who outhit UIC 15 to 6, were on their way and had yet to score a run.
So Chris Coghlan took care of that. The junior third baseman laced one in the gap that scored both Presley and Ketchum as Coghlan reached third with a triple.
It was a new day for a team that had been struggling to get hits, to score runs, and to win - at least the past couple of games. The Rebels scored four in the first and never looked back, adding two runs in the third, fifth, and eighth.
"We just needed to get back to the baseball we're used to playing, lots of intensity, playing hard the entire game," Presley said. "We wanted to play harder and more intense every inning. This is our style. This is us."
Coghlan, 3-for-5 with two triples and two RBI on the day, said the Rebels knew they had to step it up a notch or two after the last couple of games.
"Coach (Mike Bianco) basically called us out after last night's game and checked our pride, told us we were scared and he was right, talking about us letting pitches go and not playing good enough defense and not pitching good enough. Today me and (team captain) Justin Henry talked to the team and told them we had to believe in each other. We gotta believe we're real good and that we should win these games. Today we played with a lot of enthusiasm and confidence and it carried over."
As for his own great day, Coghlan said he simply followed his own advice to the team.
"If I'm going to tell everyone else how they need to play, then I need to make sure I step up my game," he said. "You can't just tell everyone else things like that and not do good. I just went out and got some hits to help us win. We've already lost three games, and playing for this program at this place, that's not good enough. Even though we won't win every game, we should expect to and play that way."
Presley said getting things started off right was his full intention.
"I saw where the guy was playing at third base," said Presley, who had to look quick since it was the first pitch of the day thrown by UIC starter Ryan Martin. "So I just tried to drop it down and it worked. Sometimes when you do something as simple as bunt, you can get the inning going."
Satterwhite went six innings allowing no runs on four hits with five strikeouts and no walks.
"I just wanted to go out and put zeroes up there," said the freshman right-hander. "It's big to come out there and get them out early and let our hitters go to work. I was glad to do that today."
Reliever Jesse Simpson, the freshman right-hander who entered the game to start the seventh, said he felt better as the game went on.
"When I first got out there I was a little shaky, but then I got in a rhythm and felt better," said Simpson, who went the final three innings allowing a couple of hits but no damage with two strikeouts. "I feel better each time out and I know my role. Just whenever they need me I want to be ready."
Bianco said it was good to see his team respond like he knows they should.
"Almost a total reversal of last night," said Bianco, whose team moved to 7-3 on the season. "We needed a knockout punch and to keep the pressure on their pitcher. We were able to do that today offensively. And we had a big day on the mound. Satterwhite was really sharp. Jesse Simpson is really tough to face after looking at Cody for six innings. That was a really effective pitching combo today. And we had a pretty solid day defensively. So today was better."
Martin (1-1) got the loss for the Flames, who fell to 3-6 on the season.
Sunday's series finale is set for 1:30 p.m. with freshman right-hander Lance Lynn (0-0, one save) on the mound for UM.
Familiar-looking Rebels beat UIC 10-0
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