MOBILE, Ala. - Down 6-5 after four innings, veteran Rebels stepped up at the plate to get it done. Trouble was, Rebel pitchers couldn't follow suit.
Trailing for the first time this young season, those who had been around for a while took things into their own hands.
Co-captain Matt Smith singled, and Logan Power homered to left. After two outs, back to back singles from Zach Miller and Kevin Mort set things up for Brett Basham. The Rebel co-captain sent one the same spot where Power had, and the Rebels led 10-6.
Jordan Henry walked and Jeremy Travis tripled to the left center wall for an 11-6 UM lead.
The Rebels appeared to be in complete command at that point. Still early, only the top of the fifth, it looked like the Rebels had withstood the Bears' challenge.
Wrong. This one was far from over.
Coupled with the Rebels pitching woes in this one - four hurlers were used on Saturday – the Ole Miss bats unfortunately went silent the rest of the way. But not Mercer's.
"We just could not get them out tonight," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "It was just one of those nights against a team we scouted last night that didn't have a very good offensive night. But you come in here and they (Bear batters) were really locked in and got some good swings off. We just had no answer for them."
The Rebels had some miscues in the field, but Bianco said that wasn't the real problem in this one.
"We made three errors - one catcher's interference, threw a bunt away, Evan (Button) drops a ball at third," Bianco said. "But that wasn't it. The deal was they were just too good offensively, they had eight at-bats and scored in six of them, multiple runs in four of six.
"Just kind of the tale of two games," he continued. "Yesterday the bullpen was so strong. Today we just couldn't get them out."
The Bears, who had already chased Rebel starter Chris Corrigan in the fourth, got to Brett Bukvich in the bottom of the fifth. An error on the Rebs and a catcher's interference call didn't help matters.
By the time Bukvich got the Bears out, they'd cut the UM lead to 11-9 and regained some momentum.
In the sixth they added a run, and in the seventh took the lead, scoring two more runs after two outs were on the board. Rory McKean had replaced Bukvich to start the sixth, and David Goforth came in for McKean and finally stopped the bleeding in the seventh.
Mercer, 1-1 on the season, added a run in the bottom of the eighth on a two-out home run by Jacob Tanis.
Corrigan went three innings, allowing six runs, five earned, with a strikeout and a walk. Bukvich went two innings with three hits and three unearned runs, two strikeouts and two walks. McKean went 1.2 innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits with a strikeout. Goforth finished the game, going 1.1 innings with one earned run on one hit with two strikeouts and two walks.
The third of four Bear pitchers, John Hoelzer, got the win. McKean was charged with the loss. Blake Mainor got the save for Mercer.
"I think our guys showed great character against a great club," Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said. "We were fortunate we had some guys step up in certain situations, and some balls fell our way. It just happened to be our night tonight."
The Rebels, now 1-1, had 15 hits. Trouble was, Mercer had 14.
"Our hitting's been really good," said Basham, who certainly did his part, going 3-for-5 with four RBI and a run scored. "It's been a bright spot so far, and we've been able to put up a lot of big innings."
Now if they can just get pitching and hitting - and of course defense – to come together all in the same game, they'll be fine.
Ole Miss plays host South Alabama at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. RHP Phillip Irwin will start on the hill for the Rebs.
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