Top-ranked Vanderbilt ended up on the winning side of things 3-2 in 10 innings as the two college baseball heavyweights began the Southeastern Conference's 30-game war for 2007.
It was also billed as a battle of two of the best pitchers in the country. Both gave the other praise after this one.
"I can't say enough about how he competes," said Rebel ace RHP Will Kline of Vandy's superstar pitcher David Price. "That is what I try to mold my game after, a competitor like him. He did a great job tonight."
Price, now 5-0 on the season and projected by many to be the No. 1 draft choice in June, pitched a 10-inning complete game allowing two runs on four hits with 14 strikeouts and two walks.
Kline went eight and a third innings allowing two runs on four hits with six strikeouts and three walks and was relieved with one out in the bottom of the ninth with a Commodore on first after giving up a single. LHP Price said Kline was sensational.
"First of all, I tip my cap to Will Kline," Price said before he would even comment about his own performance. "Ole Miss played a great game, played solid defense, hit when they needed to. He deserved to win just as much as I did. This game was what college baseball is all about. It was one of the most exciting games I've ever been a part of. This is why I came to college, nights like this."
Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin, his team now 20-0 on the season, said Price was at his best.
"As much as I've seen him, that was as competitive as he's ever been," Corbin said. "And in a game like that where you get in the eighth or ninth inning and you're struggling to get some runs, he really kept them at bay. He was good, really good."
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, his team now 14-6, said the game was a great one despite the loss.
"Sometimes games don't turn out as billed," he said. "This one did. Price and Kline were tremendous. They (Commodores) were able to get us in the ninth and tenth. Just a great college baseball game."
The Rebels took a 1-0 lead in the fifth on back to back doubles from Logan Power and Zach Miller. They added a run in the sixth to take a 2-0 lead after Price uncharacteristically walked Jordan Henry and then hit Justin Henry with a pitch. He was immediately called for a balk with Zack Cozart at the plate to move the Henrys to second and third. Cozart flew out to left to score Jordan.
Justin then stole third on the first pitch to Cody Overbeck as the Rebels appeared to be ready to increase their lead and perhaps make it too tough for Vandy to come back against Kline. Overbeck was hit by a pitch from Price, who continued to struggle at that point, and with runners at the corners and one out, things were set up for Ole Miss.
C.J. Ketchum then struck out, and with a 1-2 count on Andrew Clark, Justin tried to steal home and was thrown out by Price to VU catcher Shea Robin.
Vandy got a solo in the bottom of the sixth, a shot by Dominic de la Osa that landed on top of an addition to Memorial Gym beyond left field. That made it 2-1 and it was anybody's game again.
The score remained that way until Kline was relieved by Scott Bittle, so effective as the Rebs' closer all year with six saves. But not on this night.
With one out and Robin on first after a single off Kline in the bottom of the ninth, Bittle came in and gave up a first-pitch single between first and second by Andrew Giobbi. A single to right by Matt Meingasner scored Robin from second as a throw from rightfielder Jordan Henry was there but catcher Brett Basham couldn't apply the tag in time.
Corbin said it was a winning piece of work by his baserunner, and he liked the work of the ump on that play, too.
"That was a heck of a slide," Corbin said. "He was for all intents and purposes thrown out. But he slid around Basham and grabbed with the left hand. It was a heck of a slide and a good job by (umpire) Jeff Head to get in good position to really look down. He didn't panic, he saw the play, and he made a good call. That was all slide, all slide."
The bases were loaded when Bittle got out of it two outs later. We headed to the tenth tied 2-2.
A Commodore error on Price allowed Fuller Smith to reach first with one out in the top of the frame. But the Rebels got no runs as Basham struck out and Jordan Henry grounded out.
After de la Osa struck out in the bottom of the tenth, Pedro Alvarez doubled off Bittle. Ryan Flaherty flew out to center, and Robin was intentionally walked. Pinch hitter Jonathan White, who had entered the game an inning before as a pinch runner, singled to right to score Alvarez from second.
Bittle had been as tough an out as there was in the country before this one.
"It was just one of those nights," he said after he fell to 1-2 on the year. "I felt fine, and my control was there. I just tried to fill too much of the zone. I think I hung a few more (over the plate) than I usually do."
Kline agreed with Price, however, that the game was special, win or lose.
"It was fun and a great atmosphere," he said. "I loved every minute of it. It's just unfortunate that we took the loss."
Saturday's game is set for 2 p.m.
Vandy wins the battle of the pitchers
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