"My legs were a little shaky at first," said the true freshman left-hander who went the final three innings in relief of Lance Lynn as the Rebels fell to No. 21 Evansville 2-1 on a day with temperatures in the mid-30s all game long. "But I actually felt pretty good out there. (Ole Miss assistant) Coach (Kyle) Bunn said I had 40 teammates supporting me and to go out and get it done. So I have that first one behind me now."
Baker faced 10 batters, striking out three Purple Aces and allowing only two hits with no walks. He gave the No. 13 Rebels, who trailed 2-0 when he came in, a chance to win.
"Nathan Baker was terrific," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, whose team fell to 3-1 on the season. "He was pretty impressive the way he pitched in this weather."
Baker said the cold, with winds of more than 10 miles per hour which made it feel in the 20s, wasn't really a factor as it may have seemed.
"You kind of get used to it out there and don't think about it," said Baker, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder from Cordova, Tenn. High near Memphis, where he was a closer his junior and senior seasons.
"I like coming into the games as a closer," added Baker, who posted a 22-8 record for his high school career with 300 strikeouts in 194 innings pitched. "I like coming in when there's pressure."
There was some pressure today. The Rebels couldn't score. They had their opportunities but couldn't produce in several clutch situations. Evansville had something to do with that. In the fifth inning the Aces center fielder made a highlight-reel catch to end a Rebel threat. In another instance, the UE third baseman also had a catch to remember as he moved to his left quickly and made a diving catch of a ball from a Rebel bat.
In the sixth inning with the bases loaded and one out, the Rebels struck out and flew out to end the inning.
On the day, Ole Miss stranded 11. The Rebels outhit the Aces 9 to 7. Fuller Smith led the Rebs going 3-for-4.
But down two runs when he entered in the top of the seventh, Baker gave the Rebels the opportunity to come back. He held the Purple Aces in check while the Rebels got a run in the eighth on a Brett Basham two-out RBI single. But they couldn't get any more the rest of the way.
"We just didn't get it done offensively," Bianco said. "We had some opportunities but didn't take advantage. We're having some trouble stringing together some hits and scoring runs. They're a good team but we have to do a better job."
Evansville, improving to 3-2, could have led by more in the early going. But starter Lance Lynn settled down after a bit of a rocky start and didn't allow much to happen.
The Aces left the bases loaded in the first inning after scoring a run on three hits. Lynn got second baseman Troy Krider to strike out swinging to end it with the bags full of Aces. The Rebel sophomore right-hander went six complete with two runs on five hits, a walk and an impressive nine strikeouts, which tied his career high in that department.
Evansville added a run in the second inning, and that was all they'd get. But it was enough on this cold day.
Ole Miss had won the Friday game of this three-game series 6-4. The teams wrap up play on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Lynn, Baker pitch well in UM loss
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