JACKSON - Will Kline not only got the win, he also got the shirt. And the trophy. And he didn't put either down until he left the ballpark.
Ole Miss won the 27th annual Mayor's Trophy game at Smith-Wills Stadium 1-0 over Mississippi State Tuesday night before an announced 5,836, the sixth largest crowd ever. It was also the first shutout in the game's history.
The trophy has lived in Oxford for five straight years now as the Rebs have taken a lead in the series 14-13. The shirt is awarded to the Rebels' player of the game with the number that coincides with that particular win - in this case No. 20. The Rebels are now 20-13 on the season.
Needless to say this one, save Zack Cozart's solo home run over the left field wall in the top of the second inning, was all about pitching. Kline, the Rebel starter, was the best he's ever been. State starter Matt Lea was almost as impressive.
The right-handed sophomore from Tupelo, with the win now 1-2 on the season, went seven innings, obviously allowing no runs on just five hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. Lea, the loser and now 5-1 on the season, allowed just Cozart's homer and only three other hits in eight innings, with six strikeouts and three walks.
College baseball games that end 1-0 are unique. That the lone run is a solo home run likely makes it even more unique.
It all started on the mound, and for the Rebels on this night that meant Kline.
"I had Tommy John surgery in high school, so I didn't pitch much there," he said. "I came here (to Ole Miss) and really became a pitcher. I had some tough outings. To be honest, I just wanted to come out and throw strikes tonight, fill up the zone and have some emotion. This is such an emotion-packed stadium - Ole Miss and State. I just wanted to have some success."
That he did, and it is the success that his head coach knew he could have all along.
"Will's got electric stuff," Bianco said. "His fastball, slider, changeup, he's really tough. He's had a good year but been a little up and down, a little inconsistent. Tonight in a starting role, Will was just lights out. He stayed ahead in the count. He looked very composed in front of probably the largest crowd he's ever pitched in front of."
Kline said there was really nothing indepth about his performance. He just tried to go out and keep it simple.
"I just tried to throw pitches they didn't expect," he said. "I felt before the game if I could get my changeup to work, then I could have some success. For the most part I guess I did. Some days you have it, some days you don't. Tonight I had it."
Cozart said it was an unbelievable night for his current teammate Kline and an old friend Lea.
"He (Lea) was one of my best friends in high school," Cozart said of the MSU starter, both who hail from Collierville, Tenn. - Lea attended Houston High and Cozart attended Collierville High. "He pitched a great game, and Will Kline pitched an even better game. Will's performance was one of the best I've seen since I've been at Ole Miss. Hats off to Will Kline."
Cozart said to not allow State to score a single run was as big as it gets.
"It's rare for a pitching staff to put up a zero versus a team of their caliber," Cozart said. "It just shows you that Will Kline and our pitchers pitched a great game to hold them to no runs."
Kline was likely thankful for Cozart as well since his second-inning blast held up.
"The first pitch he threw me was a slider, so I pretty much knew a fast ball was coming," said Cozart, whose homer was the second pitch of his first at-bat in the contest. "He put it right where I wanted it, so......"
So, he knocked it out of the ballpark.
State threatened only a handful of times. Once was in the bottom of the sixth when, with two outs, Mark Wright dropped a long fly ball from the bat of Joseph Hunter that allowed Hunter to reach third base. But Kline came right back to strike Jeff Butts out to end the threat.
Then in the ninth, after Cody Satterwhite had relieved Kline and gotten through the eighth unscathed, Garrett White came in to close it out.
White, a little rocky his last time or two on the mound, walked Mitch Moreland, struck out Hunter, hit Butts with a pitch, got Andy Rice to fly out, then walked Michael Rutledge to load the bases. State put in a pinch hitter for Brad Jones. Matt Richardson was sent to the plate. White struck him out.
Then the junior left-hander took a cue from Kline and held onto that ball for the duration of the postgame. It was his prize on this night of many rewards.
"I was dead set on not walking him," said White of Richardson. "I just had to get him out somehow."
White, a Texan in his first Mayor's Trophy game, knew the game and the outcome were that important.
"It's a big game for us," Bianco said. "You won't play a bigger non-conference game all year. With 6,000 people in the stands and all of them on the edge of their seats in the ninth, it's an SEC-type atmosphere. To get this win in this way, it's a big night for us."
Kline summed it up quite simply.
"It just feels great," he said, trophy still in hand and shirt in the cup itself, "to beat Mississippi State."
Ole Miss is at South Carolina for three games this weekend. MSU, at Auburn for a series this weekend, fell to 25-7 with the loss.
Kline, Reb pitchers superb in 1-0 win
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