Who among us didn't expect Scott Bittle to three up, three down the Bat Govs, as they like to call themselves? But Austin Peay's batters did something most teams didn't last year. They hit Bittle.
Three hits, two runs, in that top of the ninth to tie it and send the Rebels back up to the plate.
I asked pinch hitter David Phillips, who launched a rocket into the Lafayette County night with the first pitch he saw in the game, if he had an exam or something at 8 a.m. he had to go study for. I mean, one pitch, one shot. Game over.
Yep, baseball is like that. Bianco's right. You win ‘em all kinds of ways in a 60-plus game season.
Winning breeds confidence, they say, and the Rebels have won some games lately. This is a more confident team, much more actually, than I saw in Mobile. I've seen every game but one, and that was Sunday when I watched men's tennis cap its impressive weekend with a win over Tennessee. It appears to me we're seeing some guys step up who have to.
Kevin Mort's been on a tear at the plate. He's leading the team currently in hitting at .405. Honestly nobody knew what to expect offensively from him, and most didn't expect games like he's had lately – 4-for-5 and 4-for-4 in a couple of games last weekend against Vermont, then 3-for-4 Tuesday night against the Governors.
His solid defensive play has been impressive. Bianco even called it "Cozart-like" after one game. Comparing anyone to Zack Cozart at short is quite the compliment indeed.
Zach Miller at third base has been a move that might not yet be considered a stroke of genius. But we might be calling it that before long. The junior looks as comfortable, and maybe moreso, than anywhere else we've seen him on the field.
Miller's desire to excel and his play on the field have made him one of the team's leaders for sure.
Evan Button says he's about 100 percent and may play tonight. There is some debate among fans as to where Button might fit back in with Miller at third, Mort at short, Tim Ferguson at second, and the Snyder twins backing up at first and third as well as Logan Williams at one of the infield spots. And of course, Matt Smith holding down things at first.
Bianco says a coach can't ever have enough good players, and he welcomes Button back into the mix and hopes he stays healthy. Having all those guys ready for battle will only help the squad.
Bianco was pleased with the relief work Tuesday night of Rory McKean and Jake Morgan. Obviously those two will play huge roles in whatever success the Rebels have this season.
Bittle wasn't "Bittle" Tuesday night, and the ace closer isn't always going to be perfect and get the job done every time. We just think he will based on last season.
There are games like that for the best of closers, and no doubt Bittle has proven to be among the best.
Phillips was one happy pinch-hitter following the winning, late-night blast toward the students in right. He answered our questions, clutched the winning t-shirt, and took a smile to the house that he probably still wears today.
He's a new player for the Rebels, transferring from Texarkana CC prior to the fall semester. If any of his classmates recognize him, don't you know it's been a fun day for that kid on campus today?
Yep, you win ‘em all kinds of ways, like Bianco said. The Rebels will try to do that again tonight against Austin Peay at 6:30. Brett Bukvich gets the start for Ole Miss, another pitcher the Rebels need to be his best this year if they are to get where they want to be later on.
Who's on third? Or short? Or second?
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