After starting their Mobile stay strong with a 6-5 win Friday against Liberty, the No. 6 ranked Ole Miss baseball team followed with a 13-11 marathon loss to Mercer Saturday.
While today's game against host school South Alabama was a better-pitched contest, the end result was the same, as the Rebels couldn't finish it off with a 3-2 loss in extra innings.
In the tenth inning on Sunday, Scott Bittle was rocking along and had struck out five Jaguars in a row. But then he walked Jake Overstreet after two outs. That's when things turned a little bit in USA's favor.
He got Ryan Bohanan to an 0-2 count before the batter got it back to 2-2 and took a Bittle pitch into right field to put runners on first and third.
David Doss, who Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said was South Alabama's best hitter, was intentionally walked to load the bases.
But Sean Laird took a 2-2 pitch from Bittle and sent it right back up the middle, scoring Bohanan and claiming the victory.
"He's their best player, their best hitter," Bianco said of Doss, who he had also chosen to intentionally walk in the eighth with Bittle on the mound. "If you have a chance to walk him and not have to pitch to him to win the game, you don't want to."
But Laird came through and South Alabama Coach Steve Kittrell had his 1,000 win as a collegiate head coach.
"This win wasn't about Steve Kittrell getting 1,000 wins, it was about this ballclub," said the USA skipper who is in his 27th overall season as a college head coach. "We needed a big win. I am so proud of this club. I'm hoping we look back on this win and say this is one that got us going."
Laird said he was just trying to make contact against one of America's best pitchers.
"He gave me a couple of balls, and I knew he was going to give me a pitch because he didn't want to go to a full count," said the junior, who fought hard to pull the count even after falling behind 0-2. "He left it over the plate, so I got a good pitch to hit."
Bianco said there was plenty of blame to go around for this loss.
"I thought he was real good," Bianco said of Bittle. "You can't just throw it all on his shoulders. He can't pitch it and hit it. Eventually somebody's going to score. You've got to push the run across before they do."
Junior RHP Phillip Irwin, who started, took the Rebels into the sixth, and after two batters reached with singles, was pulled in favor of freshman Kyle Barbeck.
Irwin gave up only one earned run, on eight hits, with five strikeouts and a walk.
The freshman left-hander Barbeck then went 2.1 innings with no runs or hits, with a walk and a strikeout.
Bittle came in with one out in the eighth and was effective the rest of the way, while getting better as the game went on. His final line was a run on three hits with five strikeouts and three walks. But two of those three walks were planned, and the two late hits were obviously damaging.
Bianco said it was a difficult day for both teams to score.
"It was a tough offensive day," he said after his team got 11 hits, all singles. "When it's cold and the wind is blowing in, it's tough to score. We weren't able to put at-bats together. We got a hit, and then we'd hit into a double play. Then maybe we'd get another hit. We weren't able to string the at-bats together. We had some opportunities but didn't capitalize."
The type of pitching they got today will help this Rebel team win a lot of games. Especially since the Rebel offense still proved potent with those 11 hits.
The Rebels had gotten on the scoreboard in the first inning. Taylor Hashman drove in Jordan Henry, who had walked, with a looper into right, short of the right fielder.
After USA got a run in the second and another in the fifth, the Rebels tied things up when Matt Smith drove in Jeremy Travis, who had reached on an error, with a base hit to shallow center.
But that would be it on this day, as the Rebs didn't cross the plate again and dropped their second game in as many days.
Bittle got the loss. The fourth of four pitchers used by the Jags, Greg Johnson, got the win.
South Alabama ended the game with 11 hits as well, and only one that went for more than one bag. That was a double by Bohanan.
*** Rebel Notes:
Evan Button dropped to the ground in pain running to first base in the eighth inning. He grabbed his left leg, and it appeared to be a hamstring pull. Bianco said he would have to see how bad it was, but it did appear to be a pull.
Ole Miss opens the "new" Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field Tuesday at 3 p.m. hosting Central Arkansas.
Junior LHP Nathan Baker will start against UCA Tuesday afternoon.
The Rebels had good support all three days, with the largest crowd of Ole Miss fans on Saturday and estimated at about 150.
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