Both teams' coaches have deemed this year's version of the LSU-Ole Miss rivalry pivotal, largely because it starts the second half of the SEC season when clubs begin separating themselves from the rest of the SEC field. For the hometown Rebels, getting this series started on the right foot was exactly what they had hoped would happen.
The Rebel offense got to former Pillow Academy star and LSU ace Louis Coleman early. The Rebels ripped Coleman for seven runs – all earned – on 11 hits and two walks. Coleman also surrendered two long balls in only five innings of work.
Ole Miss's Friday-night starter Craig Rodriguez, meanwhile, went six innings, holding LSU to five runs – four of them earned – on five hits and three walks while striking out four.
"I thought things were all right, but I wish I could have been better," said Rodriguez. "As long as we win, I'm OK. It didn't really bother me not pitching on Friday night. I mean, you always want to pitch on Friday night if you can, but there's nothing wrong with pitching in front of this kind of crowd on Saturday."
The Rebels got on the scoreboard first with a two-out rally in the bottom of the first. After Justin Henry grounded out to second base and C.J. Ketchum fouled out to right field, Chris Coghlan sent a ball careening into the right field corner for a stand-up double. Zack Cozart followed Coghlan's two-out hit with a single through the left side of the infield to give Ole Miss a 1-0 lead.
The Rebel bats stayed hot in the second frame, getting runners on first and second with two outs, but were unable to add to their 1-0 lead.
Ole Miss didn't make the same mistake in the third inning. Lead-off singles by Ketchum and Coghlan put runners on first and second with none out. Cozart's lazy pop-fly to shallow center field gave LSU its first out of the inning, and the Tigers opted to intentionally walk Alex Presley after falling behind 3-0 in the count. Mark Wright, who hit a three-run double last weekend after South Carolina intentionally walked Presley to load the bases, came up big again by rifling a ball to left field to give Ole Miss a 3-0 lead.
Rodriguez took that lead into the top of the fourth, when Quinn Stewart's 381-foot homerun with no outs brought the Tigers within 3-2.
"The homerun didn't hurt me as much as the walk before it," said Rodriguez. "We have pitching rules that say if we score, then you can't let them come back and score. I broke that rule that today, but we really did it a lot more times to them."
The Rebels, as they seemed to do all afternoon, had an answer to LSU's rallies. Preseason All-America candidate Chris Coghlan crushed a 1-0 pitch over the right-center field wall for a 395-foot two-run homer. Coghlan's bash scored Justin Henry, who had reached on a bunt single two batters earlier, to put the Rebels 5-2.
LSU came back with two runs in the top of the fifth. Will Harris led off the inning with a double, and Nicholas Pontiff reached on an error and eventually scored to pull the Tigers within a run at 5-4.
But the Rebs responded again. Mark Wright led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a single, and Justin Brashear's two-run homer two batters later gave Ole Miss back its three-run lead at 7-4.
After LSU pulled within 7-5 in the top of the sixth, the Rebels erupted for three runs in the bottom of the sixth to run away from the Tigers. C.J. Ketchum started the frame by flying out to right, but the next four Rebs reached base on a walk, double, walk, and single to put Ole Miss up 9-5. Alex Presley, who reached on his second intentional walk of the day, scored on a wild pitch later in the inning to give the Rebels a 10-5 lead.
On the day, Ole Miss pounded out 14 hits against the LSU pitching staff, including 13 in the game's first six frames. Rodriguez and Rebel reliever Will Kline, meanwhile, held the potent LSU offense to four earned runs on eight hits. Kline replaced Rodriguez in the seventh and pitched three scoreless innings, giving up three hits and no walks while striking out two.
The Rebels will look to take the series later today in the second game of a doubleheader. Game time is set to begin at 4:51 p.m. CST.
Rebs take opener against LSU
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