Brett Basham is clearly a consummate team player. The talented catcher hustles, executes the little things well and – possibly most important - obeys orders from the coaching staff.
Well except for once Friday, but that momentary lack of obedience was just fine with Mike Bianco.
Heading into the bottom of the eighth and with the score tied at one apiece, Basham was informed by Bianco that new Tiger pitcher Daniel Bradshaw (1-4) would most likely start with a slider and come back with a fastball. Basham was told to lay off the first one and then hit the straight pitch off the wall for a double.
The coach was wrong, and the second pitch never came.
Basham read fastball on Bradshaw's first offering and blasted the inning-opening toss 404 feet into the leftfield terrace to break the deadlock and propel No. 18 Ole Miss (23-11, 8-5) to a 2-1 victory over LSU (21-12, 5-8) in front of a season-high attendance of 5,518 raucous Rebels.
"That is probably the first time I have disobeyed a coach's orders," Basham joked afterward. "I went ahead and did what I could with the first pitch. I didn't watch it, but I knew it felt good, and I heard the crowd. I'll watch it again on dot TV when I get home."
Bianco clearly saw the shot and could just grin and shake his head.
"I told him ‘how about laying off the first pitch and hit the second one for a double,'" Bianco said. "Clearly we are glad he swung at that one."
With the victory, Ole Miss has now won eight straight games and five consecutive inside the Southeastern Conference. The Rebels' win and Auburn's loss to South Carolina puts Ole Miss two games ahead of the field in the Western Division.
Basham may have supplied the blast, but the dominant duo of Lance Lynn and Scott Bittle made the moment possible. Lynn went eight strong, allowing just two hits and striking out 12 for the win. Bittle surrendered a single in the ninth but struckout two Tigers for his third save.
Lynn (5-0) put together possibly his best performance this season by staying aggressive and battling back from a high pitch count early. The junior threw 126 pitches and finished his night with a punchout of nine-hole hitter Johnny Dishon. A fist pump followed, and the dugout spilled out to greet the burly right-hander.
"The story of the game was pitching," Bianco said. "They did a good job running his pitch count up, but the last three innings, he managed it well. That enabled him to get to the eighth. It was the best he has pitched overall in a while."
Lynn was nearly matched pitch-for-pitch by LSU starter Jordan Brown. The junior pitched seven compete and scattered six hits while giving up one run. Brown struckout eight and didn't walk a batter.
"I thought he was tremendous and really bothered us with that slider," Bianco said. "He located when he needed to and got us to chase at pitches outside the zone."
Ole Miss' first run came on back-to-back doubles by Fuller Smith and Logan Power with two outs in the third frame.
The Tigers took the early lead in the top half of that inning with a solo shot by Ryan Schimpf.
Smith, Power and Jeremy Travis each had two of the Rebels' eight total hits.
"That was an awesome game," Power said. "Lance was amazing, and Basham got us going. It felt like a regional out there, and we are still rolling. I expect more of the same tomorrow."
Ole Miss and LSU continue the series at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Rebels' Drew Pomeranz will oppose the Tigers' Blake Martin.
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