There'd already been a 55-minute rain delay in this one, and Zack Cozart had no intentions of prolonging the contest. So instead of hitting a one-out long fly ball to score Justin Henry from third base to tie it, he launched one out of the yard for a 7-5 Ole Miss win against Memphis.
Cozart knew the pitcher that threw it to him pretty well, too. Tiger righty Matt Yokley is a freshman who played high school baseball with him at Collierville High in suburban Memphis. Remember, they were teammates. And Yokley, a year behind Cozart, threw to him in practice. So you'd think.......
Oh well, he threw him one to hit anyway.
"It feels good to hit it off him," Cozart said, grinning ear to ear. "I knew at 2-0 (count) a fastball was coming. He didn't even come through the (handshake) line after the game. I think he was a little too mad."
Cozart admitted he was thinking "win it" when he strolled to the plate with Rebels on first and third and one out in the bottom of the ninth and his team behind 5-4.
"I was thinking 'hit it hard.' But I'm not going to lie," said the Rebel shortstop, 2-for-5 on the night. "I was thinking home run. But I knew if I just hit it hard into the outfield, something good would happen."
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said it was typical Zack Cozart, one of the best he's ever seen at winning games when things are on the line.
"He's always dangerous, but when we're behind, he's really dangerous," said Bianco, whose Rebels are now 34-19 on the season. "When he gets in the counts 1-0, 2-0, 3-1, he's as good as anybody we've ever had here. When he gets in those counts, it's trouble for the other guy.
"He's looking to drive the ball into the outfield and get a good cut off," Bianco continued. "I don't know if he was necessarily thinking about hitting it out."
Bianco was then told that Cozart had already said he was thinking "home run" to win it.
Pausing, smiling, Bianco then said, "Then he needs to think that more often."
There were a lot of smiles in the Rebels' camp after Memphis fell to 27-26 on the season. It was yet another important non-conference game which pushed their final mark in those games this season to 19-7.
"To be able to come back and play with the intensity at the end and come out on top shows the character of our team," said third baseman Chris Coghlan, 2-for-4 on the night including a two-RBI triple in the seventh to give Ole Miss a 4-2 lead. "I was actually thinking about hitting a home run myself in the ninth (Coghlan singled right before Cozart came up, sending Henry to third from first after the Rebel team captain had reached on an error by pitcher Yokley). But I didn't get it done. So Zack did and we won the game."
The Rebs outhit the Tigers 10 to 7. Cody Satterwhite, the third of three pitchers used by Ole Miss, got the win and moved to 9-2 on the season. Yokley, the fourth of four Tiger pitchers in the contest, fell to 1-3.
Bianco said this was another positive late-season step for the Rebels, who won their third game in a row.
"You don't want to lose tonight," he said. "And even more than just momentum is another win, the 34th win. We'd lost enough non-conference games. We didn't need another one to go up on the board."
Cozart, with the three runs he put up on the board, made sure of that.
"This helps," Cozart said. "We'd still have confidence if we'd lost, but this just boosts it even more."
And does he think he will talk to high school pal Yokley anytime soon?
"Yeah, I'll probably give him a call," Cozart said, grinning again. "I'll probably do that."
Cozart's 3-run walkoff lifts Rebs to victory
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