Rebs fall to Vandy 7-6 in opener

Ole Miss couldn't quite make it all the way back after being down 7-3 and lost by a run.

Ole Miss found Vanderbilt starting pitcher David Price tough to hit. Unfortunately the Commodores didn't find Rebel starter Tommy Baumgardner quite as difficult to hit as the visitors jumped on him early with three runs in the first two innings on their way to a 7-6 victory in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

"Price was everything we thought he would be," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, whose team fell to 11-7 overall and 0-1 in league play. "He was tough. Very good. He threw more breaking balls, more changeups, than in other outings and he had to. And he threw more strikes. We made him work more. He threw almost 130 pitches through seven innings. A lot of those innings we had 3-2 counts and 2-2 counts. I thought our offensive approach was good against a guy throwing 92-96 with an 84-87 mile an hour slider. That's big-league stuff.

"But you can't give up multiple-run innings when you're facing a pitcher like that. It's hard to win when you do that. They got a couple of big, key hits in critical situations. Our pitchers have to make better pitches in those situations and we didn't tonight."

Baumgardner loaded the bases with a one-out walk in the top of the first inning. But after getting a strikeout for out No. 2, Alex Feinberg hit the first pitch between third and short that scored two runs, and the Commodores were on their way.

In the top of the second, a pop up and a double play ended what could have been a more damaging inning to the Rebels' cause. Vandy scored one on a Rebel error and was poised for more when Pedro Alvarez popped up and Brian Hernandez grounded into the double play.

The Rebels scored two in the bottom of the third as Zack Cozart doubled the first pitch to the left field wall to score Justin Henry and C.J. Ketchum who had reached on a single and a walk respectively to make it 3-2.

Vandy, now 12-6 and 1-0, answered and then some in the fourth to go up 5-2. The Rebels got one back in the fifth when Chris Coghlan singled in Henry who had walked.

After Vandy added two more runs to lead 7-3, the Rebs made things interesting. The Commodores changed pitchers and the Rebels took advantage. Ole Miss scored a run off Stephen Shao in the eighth on a double by Jon-Jon Hancock which drove in Mark Wright who had doubled.

In the ninth with UM down 7-4, Vandy put Nick Christiani on the mound and the Rebels got to him. Pinch hitter Evan Button doubled to the right center wall to lead things off. After moving to third on a ground out by Justin Brashear, Button scored on a Henry bunt.

C.J. Ketchum then reached on a fielder's choice. Chris Coghlan got to first on a throwing error, and Zack Cozart doubled to right field to score two runs. But Mark Wright grounded out to short to end the game with the tying run on third and the winning run on second.

The Rebels dipped into the bullpen three times. Stoney Stone, Jesse Simpson, and Will Kline all did nice jobs slowing the Commodores down following Baumgardner's departure after walking the first two batters in the fourth.

The final linescore showed how close the game was as Vandy had 12 hits and the Rebels 11, with each team committing two errors.

"Losses are always bad, but the one thing is we really played hard tonight," Bianco said. "Our team believed they were going to win even at 7-3. And down four runs with that guy on the mound, that's pretty good. And we had a shot at the end with the winning run at second base. But it didn't work out for us."

Team captain Henry, 3-for-4 with an RBI, agreed with Bianco that the Rebels gave it their best.

"The way we battled back, that's the way you have to play to win in the SEC," he said. "You have to compete the whole game to win in this league, and we just came up a little short."

Saturday's game is set to begin at 1:30 p.m.

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