Ole Miss, ranked 10th nationally, had struggled to a 1-1 weekend against Georgia. Sunday's contest was only the 12th of 30 Southeastern Conference games. But it just had that feel.
It felt that way for the Rebels, too. It showed in their play in a 9-0 win over the SEC East's Bulldogs. With the win Ole Miss moved to 24-10 on the season and 7-5 in SEC play, a game back of 8-4 Arkansas and Florida and tied with 7-5 Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt in the SEC race. Tennessee is a game back at 6-6 and alone in seventh place.
"We had to win today, especially since it was at home," said Cody Overbeck, 3-for-5 on the day with three RBI and two runs scored. "But we wanted the sweep."
That's because these Rebels, like recent Ole Miss baseball teams, have big plans. Those plans are made, not just in May for June, but throughout a long and grueling season, sometimes under difficult and trying conditions.
Friday night's game went 13 innings and, thanks to a couple of Georgia miscues in the bottom of the ninth which kept hope alive for the home team, the Rebels won it 9-8. The temperature was at the freezing mark when it ended, maybe below. The game was four hours long.
Then Saturday on Grove Bowl Day, another unusually cold afternoon for mid-season baseball, the Rebels fell behind 2-0 in the top of the first, made some mistakes as the game played on, didn't get some runs in when they needed to, and lost 4-3.
It was a long night and morning after that, but the Rebels got themselves ready for game three and it showed by early Sunday afternoon.
In the top of the first, freshman left-hander Nathan Baker, in his first SEC start, got out of a jam. Bulldogs were on first and third with one out. Baker got the next two Georgians to strike out. The kid who came to Oxford from Cordova, Tenn., touted as having a great future as a Division I pitcher was growing up quickly. The Rebels followed his lead and jumped on Georgia for a 4-0 advantage after three complete.
It was an interesting day, this game for the series. Baker, Justin Cryer, and Cody Satterwhite combined to allow only four hits from the visitors, a season-low in that department for Georgia. The Bulldogs had only eight base runners all day. Ole Miss had 12 hits - all singles - and still left 13 men stranded. The score clearly could have been more one-sided.
"It was a must win for us. Everybody knew that," said Zack Cozart, 3-for-4 on the day with two runs scored who also turned a terrific threat-ending double play in the top of the seventh to further diminish the Bulldogs' hopes. "We're back in the hunt for the overall SEC now."
Zach Miller, with two home runs Friday night, was 2-for-3 on this day with an RBI.
"Every game is crucial, and every game counts the same," Miller said. "They all count toward championships, and this one could mean a lot down the road."
Baker struggled for the first time all day in the seventh and walked Georgia cleanup hitter Rich Poythress. Matt Olson, the five-hole hitter, then got a base hit. To a rousing ovation from Reb fans in attendance, Baker gave way to Justin Cryer, who proceeded to walk Matt Robbins.
With the bags full of Bullies, Cryer got Matt Cerione to pop up to shallow left on the first pitch he threw him for the first out. There was no advance by any runners.
Jake Crane then lined out to Cozart, with Olson crossing in front heading to third and blocking Cozart's view for a split second. The All-American candidate at short then made a pin-point accurate throw to first baseman C.J. Ketchum to complete the double play and move the game to stretch time.
That whole scenario in the top of the seventh was big because the Rebels led just 5-0 at the time. Even a couple of Georgia runs would have made things a lot different.
The Rebels got nothing in the bottom of the seventh, and Cryer walked one with two outs in the top of the eighth before getting Jonathan Wyatt to pop up to Cozart.
Ole Miss got four insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, and that was basically that. Jordan Henry walked, and brother Justin Henry flew out to left. Cozart singled to put runners on first and third. Overbeck singled to score Jordan. Logan Power singled to score Cozart. Fuller Smith singled to score Overbeck. Evan Button struck out. Peyton Farr walked. Alex Kliman was hit by the first pitch to him from reliever Jason Leaver, who had entered to start the inning, which scored Power. JoJo Tann grounded out to send it to the ninth with the Bulldogs' hopes basically gone.
Satterwhite entered and got two ground outs, gave up a hit, then got a fly ball to completely end those hopes.
"We got some runners in who were in scoring position today," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "We got some two-out hits that were clutch. We got some runners in from third base either with a single or a fly ball. We didn't have the extra base hits today, but we took advantage of some opportunities and were able to score."
And the Rebels, who knew they needed it, got an important SEC win.
Georgia headed back to Athens 11-21 overall and 4-8 in SEC play.
Ole Miss plays at Southern Mississippi Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Rebels get important Sunday win
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