Rebels regroup and rally for Friday win

There was a point Friday where Ole Miss could have panicked and collapsed. However, adverse occurrences and high-pressure postseason contests are nothing new to these Rebels.

Ole Miss (38-23) jumped out early, withstood a Sam Houston State (38-23) rally soon after and finished with a flurry to bury the fourth-seeded Bearkats 14-5 in front of an overflow crowd of 7,019.

The contest was tied heading to the bottom of the fifth, but the Rebels regrouped following a flat couple of innings and broke out the bats for 10 runs over the final four fames.

"I think that experience helps some," Justin Henry said. "We didn't panic or anything. Maybe with a young team, something like that would happen, but we knew it was early in the game. We've got guys who have been here before, and we knew that we had to keep playing."

After some tough-luck decisions this season, Will Kline (7-2) was the benefactor of a potent offense. Kline picked up the victory but was shaky throughout most of his outing as he allowed five runs on nine hits in just six innings of work.

"I think everything was missing," Kline said. "It just wasn't my night. But at this time of the year, it isn't about ERA and stats. It is about winning baseball games. It just feels good to win."

Justin Cryer picked up his first save of the season in relief as the freshman shutout Sam Houston State over the last three innings.

Ole Miss produced 12 hits and was able to capitalize off three SHSU errors that opened the door for several scoring chances. Jacob Howard (11-6) suffered the loss for the Bearkats after being tagged for eight runs in five innings.

"I thought Jacob Howard gave us a chance to win, but we made three costly errors behind him," Bearkat coach Mark Johnson said. "I thought Ole Miss did a great job of taking advantage of them. That is what good teams do."

Zach Miller and Cody Overbeck supplied a potent portion of the Rebels' offense as Overbeck had multiple hits and four RBI, while Miller topped the team with three runs scored.

"It was a good day at the plate," head coach Mike Bianco said. "If they named an MVP, it would be Zach Miller. He provided energy and competed offensively and defensively."

After getting out of a mild jam in the top of the opening frame, Ole Miss let loose with some first inning fireworks to the tune of four runs.

Jordan Henry used his blazing speed to leadoff with an infield single before Miller reached on an error by the Bearkat third baseman. Justin Henry sacrificed the runners over and Overbeck brought Jordan Henry home with a flyball. Zack Cozart lined a shot to left that scored Miller, and Logan Power launched a two-run shot for the big blow of the inning.

The score stood until the third when Sam Houston State cut the deficit to one with an opportunistic inning. A walk, single and walk loaded the bases for Bearkat Bobby Verbick. The leftfielder grounded a ball to the left side, but Overbeck allowed it to slip by him as two runners scored. A third run scored on a groundout one batter later.

The large Ole Miss contingent at Swayze Field grew restless in the top of the fourth as Sam Houston knotted the score at four after three singles.

The Rebels woke up and responded with their four straight innings of scoring beginning in the fifth inning. Miller tripled off the right-center wall and scored on a groundout from Justin Henry.

In the sixth, Ole Miss brought out the dagger with three runs after receiving life with a Bearkat miscue. Logan Power started the inning with a walk and Evan Button reached after a tailor-made double play was botched by the SHSU second baseman. Fuller Smith packed the bases with an infield bunt single and Jordan Henry walked to bring in a run. Miller followed with a sharp single to score two more, and Ole Miss was again rolling.

The Rebels added another run of insurance in the seventh when Overbeck powered a solo bomb into the leftfield terrace.

The Bearkat pitching unraveled in the eighth and Ole Miss lit up the board for five more runs. Overbeck drove a two-RBI double to cap the frame and ice the contest.

The Rebel victory sets up a winner's bracket contest between Ole Miss and Southern Miss at 5 p.m. Saturday. Lance Lynn will start for the top seed, and Barry Bowden will counter for the Golden Eagles. The two squads split a pair of games this season.

"I think it will be a little different this time," Justin Henry said. "It should be a good game, and we know that we have to play well. It's a lot bigger game that when we face them in the midweek."

Sam Houston State faces Troy in an elimination game at 1 p.m.

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