Rebels sneak by upset-minded Bat Govs

Mike Bianco found the right combination to produce a win last Saturday against Minnesota and another lineup and bullpen juggling act on Tuesday night led to a tight 4-3 victory over Austin Peay (3-5).

The No. 16 Rebels (10-4) collected a couple clutch hits and used solid pitching relief for the one-run victory against the upset-minded Bat Govs.

Red-shirt freshman Zach Miller started his second consecutive game and again provided a spark with two hits, an RBI and a run scored. Justin Henry made his first start in the outfield in two years to make way for Miller but batted in the normal leadoff spot and connected for two hits including a two-run triple in the second inning.

"Coach had to find a spot for Miller because of the way he played so I moved out there so C.J. (Ketchum) didn't have to sit again," Justin Henry said. "I can play wherever, and it was good to mix it up and get the right guys in on the right days."

The position switch worked on a variety of levels as Ketchum responded from his game off while in Minnesota. The senior led off the scoring in the third with a smash over the left-center wall that traveled an estimated 402 feet.

"I got a good pitch to hit and was able to turn on it," Ketchum said. "That was big because I have been working on getting the bat out, and I was able to put a good swing on it."

Ole Miss pounded out 12 hits but left an alarming nine runners on base. With the score tied at three, a sixth-inning double by Alex Kliman, who was again playing in place of Brett Basham, brought home pinch runner Evan Button for the deciding run. Button was inserted after a Ketchum single.

"I thought we swung a lot better today," Bianco said. "We were loose and aggressive and more confident at the plate. Sometimes you look for that improvement, and it doesn't show in the box score. But, that doesn't mean it isn't there."

Starting pitching had been the story all season, but brilliant bullpen work sealed the deal for the Rebels Tuesday. Jesse Simpson had only appeared once thus far this year, but the sophomore relieved starter Nathan Baker, who allowed three runs (one earned) off five hits, and hurled nearly three innings of perfect baseball.

Simpson recorded three strikeouts in 2.2 innings of work. He faced and retired eight batters before a Zack Cozart fielding error ended his night.

"The difference in the game was Simpson," Bianco said. "He was really able to shut them down after they had threatened for several innings. He really handled the pressure for three innings. Nathan wasn't quite as sharp, but he battled to keep us in it."

Closer Scott Bittle entered with two down in the eighth and made quick work of the four remaining outs. The JUCO transfer mowed down three consecutive batters and induced a weak groundout to end the contest and record his fifth save.

"Scott was terrific as always," Bianco said. "He has confidence and just fills up the zone. The slider and cut fastball makes him so tough on hitters."

Ole Miss' three runs in the second was short lived as the Bat Govs answered for three of their own in the top of the third off a walk, an error and two infield singles. The score held until Kliman's double in the sixth.

The Rebels host Austin Peay again on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. with Phillip Irwin making his first collegiate start against a formidable opponent in Bat Govs' starter Matt Reynolds.

Reynolds is 2-0 with an ERA under two. The left-hander has struck out 18 hitters while walking two, but opponents are connecting for nearly a .300 batting average.

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