Kentucky (33-17-1, 12-14-1) put together four multiple-run innings and received enough pitching to hold off No. 18 Ole Miss (33-20, 14-13) and take the rubber match. The Rebels could have sewn up a top-eight finish with a win and an Alabama or LSU loss but now Ole Miss still has work to do as it heads to Fayetteville Ark., for a three-game set with the Western Division-leading Razorbacks.
"I thought we didn't play tight the last two days and that is the good news," head coach Mike Bianco said. "It is disappointing that we have lost the last two weekends, I don't think we are far away."
A middle-innings meltdown gave the Wildcats a substantial lead through six frames. The Rebels responded with a rally in their own during the seventh, but it wasn't enough as Kentucky escaped with the lead.
Nathan Baker suffered the loss for Ole Miss after allowing five runs on four hits in 4.1 innings of work. He had three walks and two costly hit batsmen.
I just struggled on the mound today," Baker said. "My fastball wasn't hitting spots, and was throwing my slider in the dirt. As a pitcher, you can't repeatedly do that, but that is exactly what I was doing."
The Wildcats jumped ahead first with two runs in the second inning thanks two consecutive walks and a hit by pitch that allowed Antone DeJesus to drive in both runs with a single up the middle.
The Rebels erased the goose egg with one in the bottom half before Zack Cozart gave Ole Miss its only lead of the day with a two-run shot over the left field wall in the third inning.
The advantage was short lived as Kentucky trounced the Rebels for six runs over the next three innings to lead 8-3 heading into the seventh inning stretch. Mental and physical errors helped out the opportunistic Wildcat bats.
Ole Miss battled in the bottom of the seventh and plated four runs to cut the advantage to one.
Fuller Smith led-off by getting hit by a pitch and Alex Kliman followed with successfully reaching on a fielder's choice. Jordan Henry laced one of his two hits, and Cozart advanced him with a fielder's choice of his own.
Justin Henry followed with a RBI groundout, and then Cody Overbeck completed the damage with a two-run double.
That brought the lead to one, but Kentucky added insurance in the highlight-filled top of the eighth inning.
Wildcat two-hole hitter Brian Spear leaned into two pitches during the at-bat and was called back to the plate both times by home plate umpire Arthur Schmidt. Spear eventually walked, but Kentucky head coach
John Cohen and first base coach Nick Mangioni were both ejected in the process. Reliever Cody Satterwhite allowed three straight singles before Justin Cryer came in to coax a double play to minimize the damage.
Ole Miss went quietly in the ninth after a pop-up and two unsuccessful bunts.
This weekend's series against Arkansas is Thursday – Friday because of the SEC Tournament starting the following Wednesday.
"We have a huge series coming up, and we have to get some wins and move up in the standings. It is crunch time," Cozart said.
Wildcats win series with 9-7 triumph
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