Still Going...

Second-ranked Ole Miss' unbeaten record appeared to be in possible peril late in Tuesday's game, but like all other occasions this season, Mike Bianco was able to shut down the opponent's offensive momentum with one point of the finger – the signal to open the bullpen gate for Scott Bittle's entrance.

The Golden Eagles (6-3) had already chipped away and had the tying run at the plate in the eighth inning, but Bittle calmly baffled USM for six straight outs to pick up his first save, as Ole Miss held off Southern Miss 8-5 at a chilly Oxford-Univerity Stadium/Swayze Field.

USM scored its final run on a passed ball during Bittle's first batter, but the junior struckout four in his two innings of work and has now punched out 23 of the 32 hitters faced on the year. He has allowed just one hit in more than ten innings of action after the perfect outing against the Golden Eagles.

"We say it time and time again, but Bittle is so special," Bianco said. "We haven't had many, if any, guys that are better than him, especially in those situations. He is averaging two strikeouts per inning and is just so dominant."

While Bittle stole the acclaim late in the game, Rory McKean (1-0) performed admirably in his first collegiate start. The Montgomery, Ala., native grabbed the win, also a first for his career, after firing five innings and allowing two runs on five hits.

McKean was tagged for two doubles and a run in the first but settled down afterward, only surrendering a solo home run the rest of the way.

"I thought the story, especially early, was Rory," Bianco said. "I thought he was terrific. He worked both sides of the plate and really got ahead in the count. He made it look relatively easy out there."

It was another double-digit hit performance for the Rebels at the plate with 13, but a different batter led the charge. Evan Button awoke from two weeks of offensive slumber, finishing his day 3-for-3 with a double and his first home run of the season. Button knocked in a run and scored three times. After Tuesday, the junior now has five hits in the past three games.

"Right now I am not even going to worry about my stats. I am just happy to know that I am helping the team," Button said. "You have to be glad that the team is seeing the ball, and I am just happy to finally be seeing it too."

Matt Smith, Brett Basham and Michael Hubbard also accumulated multiple hits, while Cody Overbeck reached on an infield single to continue his streak of hitting safely in every game this season.

Southern jumped ahead with one in the first, but Ole Miss pushed two across in the third to take the lead. After the Golden Eagles tied it a half inning later, the Rebels made the bottom of the fourth pivotal by scoring four and giving their bullpen a cushion.

Todd McInnis (2-1) suffered the loss for USM after being tagged for six runs and eight hits in 3.2 innings.

The Golden Eagles trailed 7-2 heading into the seventh before roughing up true freshman Matt Tracy for two earned runs and an unearned run off Brett Bukvich over the next couple innings.

It was Bukvich's first action of the year, entering with the bases loaded in the seventh and no outs. The junior, who missed time rehabbing an injured elbow, allowed two inherited runners to score. It was his runner who scored on Basham's passed ball from Bittle in the eighth. Bittle took over right after.

"The main thing is going out and throwing strikes," Bittle said. "It helps knowing we have a great defense. If they do hit it, someone capable is back to catch it."

Ole Miss returns to action Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. against Arkansas State. Phillip Irwin will take the mound for the Rebels.

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