"After you win the first two, it's always a bad feeling to lose the last one," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco after his team slipped to 11-4 overall and 2-1 in Southeastern Conference play. "We didn't deserve to win."
On Friday night and in the first game of two seven-inning contests on Sunday, the Rebels appeared to deserve their wins. Ole Miss won 9-3 Friday night in cold and wet conditions, (Saturday's activity was weathered out; therefore two Sunday games). And earlier on Sunday the Rebs had won 6-1. In both instances, the Rebels were clearly the dominant team in every aspect.
The second game on Sunday, the series finale, was a different story. After taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, early pitching woes were the Rebels' downfall, and the homestanding Commodores took advantage.
Starter Aaron Barrett gave up back to back doubles and back to back singles in the bottom of the first as Vandy led 2-1 after an inning.
Ole Miss came right back with two runs in the top of the third, but Barrett didn't manage to even get an out in the second. After back to back singles, Barrett was pulled and David Goforth came in. Things settled down eventually, but Vandy got three more runs in the frame to lead 5-3 after two complete.
Goforth walked the first Vandy batter in the third and was pulled in favor of Rory McKean. Loftus eventually scored but was the only Vandy run to do so in the frame to give his team a 6-3 lead.
The Rebels roared back to tie things up at 6-6 in the top of the fourth. A one-out double from pinch-hitter Matt Snyder got things rolling. Kyle Henson pinch-ran for Snyder. Jordan Henry walked, and Sonny Gray replaced VU starter Nick Christiani.
Tim Ferguson singled to score Henson. Matt Smith walked. Logan Power singled to score Henry. A David Phillips ground out scored Ferguson.
A close play got the Commodores out of any further damage as the Vandy shortstop threw it to first when Michael Hubbard reached the bag. It appeared Hubbard could have been safe, and Bianco hopped out of the dugout immediately in protest. But to no avail.
Likely had Hubbard reached, both Smith and Power, or at least Smith, who was at third, would have scored. But things stood 6-6, and the Rebels would get no more runs in this one.
After two outs were recorded by McKean and a single by Aaron Westlake followed in the bottom of the fourth, Scott Bittle came in and finished it out for the Rebs.
But a leadoff walk in the bottom of the fifth ended up being the winning run for Vandy. Joe Loftus got a free pass, stole second on Joe Esposito's at-bat, and moved to third on an error by Kevin Mort. Loftus scored on a fly ball to right by Brian Harris.
Bittle actually walked the leadoff batter, Stephen Liddle, in the bottom of the sixth but picked him off and got two strikeouts after that.
But the Rebels couldn't get anything going in the top of the seventh, and they had to make do with two wins and not three.
"If you don't play well, you lose in this league," Bianco said. "That's why it's the No. 1 baseball conference in the country. We hit well enough all weekend. We certainly didn't pitch well enough to win in the second game, and we killed ourselves with errors as we tried to make some comebacks later. And we left some opportunities out there offensively."
Bianco said Barrett's struggles continue to be a surprise.
"It's one of those tough things," he said. "It's like a pitcher's slump. It's disappointing, because he's a very talented kid. We'll run him out there, but we'll have to run him out there in some different ways now."
Barrett said not getting ahead in the counts were costly.
"My stuff felt good, I was just trying to make pitches but was falling behind in counts and leaving balls up," said Barrett, who gave up four runs on six hits with no walks or strikeouts. "They came out ready to swing."
Vandy reliever Sonny Gray (3.2 innings, one run, two walks, three strikeouts) got the win, and Bittle (2.1 innings, one unearned run, two walks, three strikeouts) was charged with the loss.
Goforth's line read one inning pitched, two runs, one earned, three walks, and a strikeout. McKean went 1.2 innings with two hits and two strikeouts.
Christiani pitched 3.1 innings, allowing five earned runs on six hits with three walks and five Ks.
The Commodores, 11-7 and 1-2, outhit the Rebels 10-8.
Ole Miss travels to Jonesboro, Ark., for a Tuesday night game with Arkansas State. The Rebels host Memphis at home Wednesday night.
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