Rebels shut out Murray State 9-0

Five Ole Miss pitchers combined for a two-hitter Tuesday night as the Rebels beat Murray State 9-0 in the final non-conference regular season home game for 2006-07.

Scott Bittle, in his first start of the season after 24 innings in 21 relief appearances, got the win, going three innings with five strikeouts and one hit.

"I felt like I was throwing my pitches for strikes, and I was just trying to stay ahead of the guys," said the sophomore right-hander, now 2-4 on the season, who was a starter in junior college. "It felt a lot different coming into a game without somebody on second and third."

It has been a tough go for Bittle, even with a 1.88 ERA and seven saves - but those saves were all in non-conference games.

"The whole game is in my command (as a starter)," said Bittle, who previously pitched at Northeast Texas Community College. "It was something new (for this season), and it was fun. I felt pretty strong out there and could have gone longer. But we needed to get other guys in the game."

Bittle was on a pitch count and threw 40 pitches in the contest. The Texarkana, Texas, native said he took from this game some renewed enthusiasm.

"It's a confidence builder, but I just need to transition it into this weekend and next weekend," he said. "I'm glad I got the start tonight."

After Bittle, Brett Bukvich, who has had some Sunday starts this season as well as some midweek starts, came in and pitched two innings with two strikeouts.

Jesse Simpson pitched the sixth and seventh innings with a hit and a walk; Craig Rodriguez pitched the eighth with two strikeouts; Wade Broyles finished things up in the ninth with two walks and a strikeout.

The Rebels broke open a scoreless game in the third with three runs. After a Zack Cozart fly ball brought home Jordan Henry, who had singled, advanced on a walk by brother Justin, and stole third, Cody Overbeck blasted his ninth roundtripper of the season out of the park for a 3-0 UM advantage.

In the sixth the Rebs put up three more as Overbeck doubled for the eighth time this season and moved to third on a Logan Power ground out. After Zach Miller reached on a hit by pitch, Overbeck scored on a wild pitch as Miller moved to second. After Kyle Mills walked, Peyton Farr reached on a throwing error by the MSU third baseman and was able to advance to second on the play but was thrown out at third trying to stretch it. Miller and pinch runner (for Mills) JoJo Tann scored on the play to make it 6-0.

In the seventh it was three more runs for the Rebels as a Cozart single loaded the bases after Jordan Henry got a base hit and Justin Henry walked. After Devin Hicks popped up for the first out, Power flew out to right to score Jordan as Justin moved to third. After Cozart stole second, Miller doubled down the right field line to score Cozart and Justin for the nine-run advantage.

The Thoroughbreds, with only five baserunners in the contest, were at that point headed toward their 24th loss against 14 wins this season.

"I thought it was a clean game by us, and it started on the mound with Bittle. He looked very sharp tonight," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, his team now 28-15 on the season with a three-game series against Mississippi State this weekend in Oxford. "I thought all our pitchers did well tonight."

Cozart, 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, extended his hitting streak to 15 games. Besides Overbeck's two hits (2-for-2, 2 RBI, two runs scored), Jordan Henry was the only other Rebel with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored.

Bianco said offensively the Rebels weren't stellar but were efficient.

"Not a lot of hits but some timely hits," said Bianco after his team got eight hits in this one. "We got some hits with runners on, and that's what you need to do if you're not going to get a lot of runners on."

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