Dog Gone It

PEARL - As the bottom of the eighth was ending and Mississippi State had retaken the lead in the back-and-forth rivalry match-up, fans from each team turned and exited the turnstiles in mass. Their actions indicated that one last Rebel comeback wasn't in the works, and that prognostication proved true minutes later.

The Rebels (24-13) and Bulldogs (15-21) tied or exchanged the lead six different occasions Tuesday, and No. 16 Ole Miss put the tying run in scoring position during the ninth inning, but MSU closer Aaron Weatherford worked out of the jam and delivered State a 6-5 victory in the second annual Governor's Cup before a Trustmark park crowd of 7,862.

"We just didn't play very well," Mike Bianco said. "Gave them too many opportunities, and you can't do that if you aren't going to score runs. We struggled."

MSU has now won both Governor's Cup games and holds a 15-14 edge in midweek contests involving the two schools.

Tim Ferguson laced a one-out single in the ninth and stole second, but Michael Hubbard struckout, and Fuller Smith grounded out meekly to end the game. The State players stormed the field, and Ron Polk walked off a winner in what could be his last game versus the in-state rival – barring a meeting in the SEC Tournament later this season.

Polk has announced his retirement, effective at the end of the season. His record versus Ole Miss is 92-58. If the two teams don't meet again, it is the first time the Rebels have not won the season series since 2003. Ole Miss took two of three in Starkville to open conference play.

Weatherford (1-0) notched the victory with 1.2 innings of work and just allowed the hit to Ferguson. The heralded reliever struckout three of the six hitters faced.

Nathan Baker suffered the loss for Ole Miss, giving up two earned runs on three hits in just 1.1 innings. Baker walked two Bulldogs, and Justin Cryer allowed the winning run, that he inherited from Baker, to cross on a double in the eighth inning.

"I just couldn't get ahead, and I missed arm-side high with the fastball," Baker said. "Coach Bianco gave me an opportunity I was ready for, but I just couldn't locate. It is very disappointing because we didn't want to split this regular season series."

Brett Bukvich started for Ole Miss and lasted 3.2 innings, surrendering two runs on five hits, with five punchouts and two walks. He was on a pitch count of 70 pitches.

The Rebel pitchers were hurt by three errors defensively. State was not very efficient offensively and left 13 runners on base, compared to five for Ole Miss.

MSU starter Tyler Whitney, the winner in the 2007 Governor's Cup, lasted five innings and allowed four runs on five hits. The sophomore was averaging almost a walk per inning, but the Rebels chased pitches, as Whitney threw just 71 into the sixth frame.

Kyle Mills finished his abbreviated night 2-2 with both hits being doubles. He was the lone Ole Miss hitter to have two hits.

Bianco lifted Mills in the sixth inning for Cullan Kight, and the sophomore responded. With Ole Miss trailing by a run, Kight delivered a two-out single to score two runs and give the Rebels their second lead of the game.

"It was just a great AB," Bianco said. "With a full count, he chipped one up the middle."

Both schools scored single runs in the third inning, and State took its first lead with two runs in the fifth. The Rebels regained the lead in the sixth with three runs, but MSU captured it back with two in the seventh. Ole Miss evened it with one in the eighth, before the Bulldogs scored the decisive run in the bottom half.

"We just have to be cleaner on the mound and in the field," Bianco said. "With these types of games, either do those things well or score runs. We did neither tonight."

MSU is now 5-0 at Trustmark Park, while the Rebels are 1-4 in Pearl, including an 0-2 mark this season.

Ole Miss travels to Columbia, S.C., to face the Gamecocks this weekend. Both teams are 9-6 inside the SEC.

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