Rebs adjust attitude, personnel to beat LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. - There's never been a doubt about Evan Button's heart and desire. All he's ever wanted was a chance. Sunday against LSU in a big game for Ole Miss, the sophomore infielder got one. Better yet, he made the most of one.

It wasn't his first chance this season. He'd played in 25 games, batting .273 before Sunday with 12 hits, two doubles, and a triple. In the Rebels' 16-5 victory Sunday, he doubled his RBI output for the season, driving in four runs.

Actually with one swing of the bat, he got three of them. A two-out, three-run shot out of historic Alex Box Stadium in the top of the second inning was the early lift an Ole Miss team questioning itself needed. Behind the able arm of left-handed freshman Nathan Baker, the Rebels stopped a three-game losing streak.

Equally as important as the victory, they leave LSU feeling a little better about themselves than they had the first two days of this series.

Button, 3-for-6 and also with a double on the day, started at first base, played at second, and ended the day at third. The 6-foot, 180-pounder said as the home run ball left his bat, he watched LSU right fielder Chris McGhee, who headed back toward the wall.

"I think I yelled 'get out of here' or something," said a still-excited Button postgame talking about his first collegiate career home run. "I was pretty sure it was gone."

Fuller Smith was another who made the most of his chance Sunday. The Rebel junior got the DH nod and was 3-for-5 with an RBI.

"I was hoping I'd get a chance," Smith said of playing Sunday. "I felt good in BP today, but I've really felt good since the Auburn weekend (two weekends ago). I knew when I got a shot, I needed to make something of it."

Right before Button came up in the second inning for his home run, Smith had gotten on with a base hit between third and short. Cody Overbeck, who had led off the inning with a walk, moved to second.

"That inning jump-started us," Smith said. "That got us going and we never looked back."

This was one of those days that tests those involved. That includes players, coaches, and fans. They happen at various points every season.

The Rebels had boarded the bus at the stadium for their hotel late on Saturday afternoon an uncertain bunch - unsure about why things weren't going their way, unsettled that they couldn't seem to catch a break or two or even make one, wondering if they are as good as the last few teams that have worn Ole Miss baseball uniforms.

So they searched their souls and even met about it later. The leaders stepped up and the team tried its best to get on the same page for an important Sunday game.

Ole Miss lost Friday night 4-3. Coach Mike Bianco said after Saturday's 8-2 setback that teams will have hiccups, as he called a couple of losses here or there, but sweeps at the hands of an opponent do way too much damage.

The players knew what was at stake. They knew they needed a win. Now they conclude the first half of league play at 8-7, one game ahead of where the last two Super Regional Rebel teams were at this point. Those two were 7-8 after 15 SEC games.

Baker appears to give the Rebels a fighting chance on Sundays now. This team has responded to him. He's just a freshman. But on the mound he's already pitching like a player who has been around these situations for much longer than that.

Last Sunday the Rebels were in a similar situation. They had split with Georgia in Oxford. A series loss to the Bulldogs at home would have been a blow to the Rebels' cause.

Baker handled that one well, going six innings and allowing no runs on three hits with four strikeouts and a walk as the Rebels won 9-0. On this day, it was more of the same from him.

"From the beginning I felt pretty confident," said Baker, now 5-1 on the season. "My fast ball and slider were on for most of the game. There were some really great (defensive) plays made out there for us today. When it came down to it, we just hit the ball today. That helped us a lot."

Baker said he appreciated Button's shot, which gave him a cushion early.

"When you get a three-run home run like that, you certainly feel more confident," Baker said, who went 5.1 innings allowing two earned runs on eight hits with three strikeouts and no walks.

Justin Cryer, from Leesville, La., came in after Baker departed and went 1.2 innings with one earned run on two hits with one strikeout. Cody Satterwhite finished things up for the Rebs with his first action of the weekend, allowing no damage with two strikeouts and a walk.

Ole Miss outhit LSU 15 to 10. The Tigers had three errors to the Rebels' two.

"I'm proud of the guys today," Bianco said. "We challenged them. Their backs were against the wall and they really competed. We knew it was a must win. We couldn't leave here losing three. We would have lost too much ground, so I'm proud of the way they responded.

"It wasn't our best game; it wasn't our cleanest game," Bianco continued. "We've played better in some games, but we got a lot of hits. I thought today was all about energy and attitude and passion."

Team captain Justin Henry said after the loss on Saturday he couldn't remember the last time Ole Miss put together a mutiple-run inning. On Sunday in addition to the three-run second, the Rebels scored four runs in the fifth inning and seven in the seventh.

"Today was big for us. We hadn't played well here," Justin Henry said. "It started (with a loss) at Southern Miss and went on through the first two days here. We had to put an end to it."

Ole Miss improved to 25-13 on the season and 8-7 in SEC play. LSU fell to 21-16-1 and 6-8-1.

This team has been looking for some players to get after it, to bear down and make something happen. They all want to; today several came through.

"I'm glad I could be one of those guys," Button said. "When I've gotten some opportunities (earlier), I don't feel I've come through like I should. I'm just confident and happy I could do that for the team today. I just go out there and swing hard and play hard and get dirty."

The next chance for the Rebels to get dirty comes Tuesday at Pearl vs. Mississippi State in the non-conference Governor's Cup game at 7 p.m. The Rebs will be looking for their sixth win in a row in that series, formerly called the Mayor's Trophy game when it was played in Jackson.

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