It wasn't a blowout like the ones before, but it was a win, and on a night like Friday, that result works just fine. No. 2 Ole Miss (6-0) fought off upstart Indiana State 6-4 amid a dense, overhanging haze at Swayze Field and a crowd of 4,375. The game was still in doubt until Justin Cryer pumped his fist moments after striking out Sycamore Brady Shoemaker for the 27th out.
However, the 26th out was the play that ended inches from swinging the entire contest. With two on, one out and the Rebels clinging to a doddery two-run advantage, Brian Ramirez sent a Cryer fastball soaring into left, while Power gave chase in the direction of the Ole Miss bullpen situated just beyond the wall. Power reached the wall and the ball, thus leaving ISU's best shot at a Friday night upset just short.
"That guy hit the ball well, and I had to run a long way," Power said. "I found the fence, and then stuck my glove up. The ball went in."
The Rebels survived their first scare of the season on a night where strange things were the norm. Sycamore leadoff man Chris Schmidt opened the game with a double on the first pitch by reigning National Pitcher of the Week Lance Lynn. Indiana State built a two-run lead in the first inning. And an eerie fog nestled over the stadium, dictating play and causing a 32-minute delay during the seventh inning.
"Baseball is a game where anything can happen," Mike Bianco said. "It was a unique game with the weather, but you just play through it. You can't expect to win them all by 10 runs. We had to battle, but we did what we had to."
Facing a 2-0 deficit, Ole Miss knotted the contest with a couple runs in the third inning and produced its winning margin during the pivotal fifth frame. Zach Miller walked to open the threat, and Cody Overbeck launched his fourth home run of the season into the right-field student section to give the Rebels their first lead.
Michael Guerrero walked immediately after, and Power came up big following him. The five-hole hitter jerked a Matt Shelton fastball over the left-field wall in what would later become the game-winning at-bat. It was Power's third home run in the last two games.
Miller and Kyle Mills supplied the run-scoring hits to tie the outing early.
Hitting continued to come through for Ole Miss, but it was the Rebel mound work that kept the contest in reach. Lance Lynn (2-0) worked a gutsy six complete innings and faced three batters in the seventh for the win, while Scott Bittle and Justin Cryer polished off the final three innings without allowing a run.
Lynn struckout nine batters and walked two, but the majority of the damage off the right-hander was in part the fault of Mother Nature. In all, ISU recorded seven hits off the junior.
"I thought he was better this week than last week against Minnesota," Bianco said. "It isn't about statistics. They made him work hard and throw more offspeed pitches. He was very tough tonight."
The Sycamores got to Lynn for a pair of runs in both the first and seventh innings, as the fog repeatedly masked the ball from the fielders during the course of the night. ISU used the tricky weather conditions to extend its seventh inning and also on other occasions when the runners were stranded.
"It was the strangest thing I have ever played in," Power said. "I couldn't see the batters in the box or the ball off the bat. I waited for the shortstop to move, and then I would try to find the ball as it came down. You couldn't see anything. I kept waiting on them to stop play."
Lynn didn't use the weather as an excuse.
"We both had to play in it, and they simply put some good swings on me in the first," Lynn said. "It is frustrating, but you just work through it."
The umpires finally delayed the action in the seventh with two men on, and Ole Miss leading 6-3. When the game resumed, Bittle replaced Lynn and punched out five of the seven batters he faced, allowing just one inherited runner to score unearned.
"Scott still amazes me at what he can do on the mound," Bianco said. "He is one of the best ever here."
Cryer was shaky in the ninth with two walks but finished it off for his first save of the season.
Michael Manus (0-1) suffered the loss for the Sycamores after leaving before getting an out in the fifth inning. The junior allowed five earned runs in four innings.
Ole Miss and Indiana State resume the series at 3:30 Saturday.
"They made it interesting at the end," Lynn said. "It was good for us to play this close game. We now know we can come in, win by two and get to tomorrow."
Braving the Elements
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