Rebels advance to Sunday title game

Ole Miss scored four runs in the second inning on its way to a seven-run victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday. For the second year in a row, the Rebels are in the championship game in Hoover, this time vs. Vanderbilt in a contest which begins at 3 p.m. Sunday.

HOOVER, Ala. - Ole Miss needed a jumpstart, so Alex Presley delivered.

The Rebel junior center fielder sent a pitch from Alabama starter Jordan Davis over the right field wall in the bottom of the second inning, just past the outstretched glove of Crimson Tide right fielder Kent Matthes. Things were just getting underway for Ole Miss as the Rebels would roll 9-2 over the Tide to advance to Sunday's 3 p.m. title game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Before that half-inning was over, the fifth-seeded Rebels would lead 4-0 over the top-seeded team from just an hour down the road. It would be a hole Alabama wouldn't be able to climb out of.

"We didn't score in the first inning of this game (the Rebels had scored in the first inning in their previous two games here)," said Presley, 2-for-5 with two RBI on the day. "We needed to come out and put some pressure on them. I just managed to put a good swing on the ball and get us started."

C.J. Ketchum, an impressive 4-for-4 in the contest with one RBI, followed up Presley's shot with a single to center. After Logan Power walked, Justin Brashear sac bunted the runners to second and third. Mark Wright then singled up the middle to score Ketchum and Power. The Rebels then added another run before the frame was through.

Evan Button then singled to left field, bringing the top of the order to the plate with two runners on and one out. A wild pitch to Justin Henry allowed both Wright and Button to move into scoring position. Henry grounded out to first, but the play allowed Wright to score and moved Button to third as the Rebels took the four-run lead.

"It was big," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said of Presley's round-tripper that got things rolling. "We don't hit a lot of home runs, although we have several guys in the lineup who can hit them. That was huge to get us on the board, and that started things for us. We ran several quality at bats together."

Ole Miss led 6-0 when the Crimson Tide finally got on the scoreboard in the fifth as Emeel Salem scored from second on a double down the left field line from Matt Downs to make the score 6-1. Salem had reached on a double down the left field line as well. Alex Avila grounded out to second, advancing Downs to third with two outs on the board. A single up the middle from Valverde pushed Downs across the plate and gave the Crimson Tide its second run. A walk of Evan Bush moved Valverde to second and put two runners on with two outs on the board. A groundout to first from Spencer Pennington ended the inning with Ole Miss holding a 6-2 lead.

The bottom of the fifth opened with Presley taking a lead-off double to the gap in left center. The Crimson Tide again went to the bullpen, calling in Miers Quigley. Ketchum singled to center to score Presley, who had stolen third and pushed Ole Miss further ahead 7-2.

Greg Paiml drew a two-out walk for the Crimson Tide in the sixth, but a groundout from Salem to first base ended the inning with the Rebels still up by five runs.

Garrett White entered the game in the seventh, relieving Lynn on the mound. The southpaw retired the side in order on eight pitches to push the game to the bottom half of the inning.

Ketchum picked up his fourth hit of the day with a double to right field and two outs on the board in the seventh. JoJo Tann entered to pinch run for the first baseman. Tann stole third as Power drew a walk, but a throwing error from the catcher, trying to catch Tann at third sailed into left field allowing Tann to score on the play. Alabama's shortstop threw home to try to get Tann at the plate, but the throw sailed wide, allowing Power to advance from first to third on the play and the Rebels took an 8-2 lead.

Mark Wright tied Justin Brashear for the team league with his 11th home run as he opened the bottom of the eighth with a solo shot over the fence in left center on a full count. Coghlan drew a walk with two outs and then moved to third on a bloop single to right field from Cozart. The Crimson Tide got out of the inning on a fly out to right, but the Rebels held the 9-2 lead heading into the top of the ninth.

Following a single to open the ninth, the Rebels retired the next three batters to grab the win.

The win marked the third-straight for the Rebels in the tournament and the first time Ole Miss has gone 3-0 to advance to the final game. Ole Miss has advanced to the championship game twice before. The first appearance was in 1977, the inaugural year of the tournament which was held in Oxford and won by the Rebels, and the second was last season.

Lance Lynn (6-3) picked up the win as he worked 6.0 innings, allowing two runs on five hits as he walked five and struck out three. Garrett White picked up his eighth save of the season as he turned in 3.0 innings of work, allowing only one hit as he held the Crimson Tide scoreless and struck out five of nine batters faced.

Jordan Davis (1-3) suffered the loss for Alabama as he worked 2.1 innings. Davis gave up five runs on seven hits as he walked one and struck out two. Alabama would use three other pitchers on the afternoon.

Mark Wright continued to come up with clutch hits as he went 2-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored.

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