Rebs can't complete sweep as USC prevails

The early hole the Rebels dug was too deep. Yes, Ole Miss came back from a second-inning 8-1 deficit to tie it 9-9 in the seventh. But they never got the lead as South Carolina added a run in the eighth and another in the ninth to salvage a game in the weekend series with an 11-9 final.

Ole Miss won games one and two on the weekend by 8-5 and 6-0 scores. The Rebels are now 27-15 overall and 10-8 in Southeastern Conference play, while USC is 31-10 and likewise 10-8.

"It's disappointing today obviously," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco as the Rebels failed to win them all over the visiting Gamecocks. "You win the first two and you're looking for a sweep."

It would have been the Rebels' first sweep, positively or negatively, this SEC season. Ole Miss has won four of six SEC series by 2-1 margins, and three of those four have been at home - over Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The lone road series win came at Auburn. The Rebs lost series at Vanderbilt and LSU.

Bianco says of the USC series that the plusses outweigh the minuses.

"We won two out of three against a very good club," he said. "And even giving up eight in the first two innings today, we were right in the thick of it. A couple more pitches or a couple more at-bats late in the game and maybe we do sweep them. It's tough maybe to see them right now, but there were a lot of positives."

True freshman left-hander Nathan Baker, so effective in Sunday starts against Georgia and LSU the past two weekends, found the going rough from the outset. A five-run top of the first, including two home runs, left him and his team with some work to do. After Ole Miss got one back in the bottom of the first, USC added three more in the top of the second to lead 8-1.

Baker actually departed the game after a second-inning leadoff solo shot out of the park over the right field wall by USC's nine-hole hitter Reese Havens. His final line was a short but rather ugly six runs, four earned, on four hits with a strikeout and a walk.

"It was one of those things that it just got away from him," Bianco said. "It was a difficult day to pitch. The wind was gushing out, and he was facing a very good team that hadn't swung the bats very well (this weekend). He had two strikes on a lot of hitters, and they (Gamecocks) just competed well."

South Carolina players said they came to the ballpark with an aggressive approach today, but that's not unusual.

"They threw some arms at us this weekend. (Today) we had the same approach as any game - to be aggressive, put the ball in play, and make their defense work," said Havens, 2-for-4 on the day with two RBI.

Justin Cryer relieved Baker and had his longest outing of the season, going 5.2 innings and recording a career-high strikeout total of 10, along with three earned runs allowed on two hits with three walks.

Cody Satterwhite came in after Cryer walked a Gamecock with two outs in the seventh. The Rebel closer went 2.1 innings, as the visitors scored two runs, one earned, on three hits with him in the contest. He struck out two and walked two.

The Rebels began their comeback from seven runs down by adding two in the bottom of the second. Brett Basham hit a one-out solo homer over the left field wall. After another out, Justin Henry doubled in the gap in left center, followed by Zack Cozart who did the same thing, which got Justin home. Cody Overbeck grounded out to end the frame.

After Cryer got the Gamecocks three up, three down, Ole Miss put up a three-spot in the bottom of the third as the Rebs chased USC starter Will Atwood. Zach Miller beat out a throw from the third baseman with one out. Kyle Mills then launched a rocket over the left center wall to cut the USC lead to 8-5. C.J. Ketchum singled to right, and Jordan Henry got him home with a single to left that fell just short of Gamecock leftfielder Joe Willard to make it 8-6. Wynn Pelzer relieved Atwood and got Justin Henry to ground out.

Havens was at it again to start the fourth with a line shot over the right field wall to extend the advantage to 9-6. But that would be all for USC until Ole Miss evened it up after seven complete.

The Rebs added two runs in the sixth. Justin Henry tripled to the right corner to score brother Jordan who had singled. After Cozart struck out, Overbeck got a base hit over the shortstop to score Justin. That was all the Rebs got at that point, but it was now 9-8.

Evan Button sent his second home run of the weekend over the right field wall in the sixth, his third home run of the season - actually his third in the last two weekends.

USC's Trent Kline doubled off Satterwhite to lead off the eighth, and two batters later a Drew Martin single to right scored what proved to be the winning run as Kline came home.

USC changed pitchers to start the Rebel eighth, but as soon as Alex Farotto walked leadoff batter Justin Henry on four pitches, USC head coach Ray Tanner brought in Jeff Jeffords who got two quick outs, gave up a single to Logan Power, then got Zach Miller to fly out to left for no damage.

South Carolina added an insurance run in the ninth to lead by two as the Rebs had one last chance. But Fuller Smith, Evan Button, and Alex Kliman could not get aboard off Jeffords.

"That (top of the ninth) run was big for us," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "Ole Miss had the top of their order looming, and those guys are dangerous."

The Rebels outhit the Gamecocks 16 to nine and also committed two errors to none for USC. South Carolina hit five home runs on the day to three for the Rebels. The Gamecocks felt fortunate to win this one.

"Ole Miss is a great hitting team," said Jeffords, who got his first save of the year. "It is terrible sitting here the whole day watching guys hitting home runs and doubles and just thinking 'I hope that doesn't happen to me when I get in there.' You just have to tune that out and throw strikes to get people out."

Pelzer (2-2) was credited with the win for USC, while Satterwhite (3-1) got his first loss of the season.

Tanner said his team needed a win and got it - but it wasn't easy.

"Give Ole Miss credit. They have a great club," he said. "They pitched extremely well Friday and Saturday. They'll make a run in these last 12 SEC games."

Ole Miss hosts Murray State at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

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