Rebels Rally

It was smooth sailing for most of the night, but a quiet ending wouldn't be the result of this game. A wild ninth inning tipped in Ole Miss' favor, as the No. 12 Rebels topped No. 24 Alabama 8-7 Friday. Read about it inside.

No. 12 Ole Miss led 5-4 heading into the ninth inning, but the visiting Crimson Tide scored three runs to lead 7-5. In the bottom of the ninth, the Rebels answered with three runs of their own to win it.

"It was a great baseball game, but at the end, not the prettiest," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "I'm proud we found a way to win."

Starter Drew Pomeranz had exited the game having pitched 7.1 innings of seven-hit baseball. But the game was far from over.

Ole Miss (14-4, 3-1) held a 5-3 lead at the time, in what appeared to be another causal Friday of SEC baseball.

Jake Morgan replaced the lefty, getting Ross Wilson to ground out for the inning's second out, before giving way to senior Scott Bittle. The closer opened by issuing three-consecutive walks, one of which drove in a run.

With the bases loaded and the Rebels clinging to a 5-4 lead, Bittle was able to rebound, striking out Jake Smith to end the threat.

After Ole Miss failed to score in the bottom of the eighth to increase its one-run lead, Bittle appeared to settle down in the top of the ninth. A three-pitch strikeout to Vin DiFazio cooled the Swayze Field air. But a single, two walks and a wild pitch later and Alabama (14-6, 2-2) had tied the game at 5-5.

A bases clearing double by Wilson plated two more, with Bittle exiting to a line of 10 batters faced, six walks, two strikeouts, two hits and three earned runs.

Rory McKean entered and got two straight Tide batters to ground out to end any more Alabama damage.

"It was just one of those nights," Bittle said. "I couldn't find the plate. When I got out there, my pitches weren't where I wanted them."

The fireworks were just getting started.

With Jimmy Nelson pitching for Alabama, Matt Smith cranked a lead-off double to get the Ole Miss rally started. Shortstop Kevin Mort followed with a walk and Matt Snyder took a hit-by-pitch to load the bases.

Jordan Henry fell behind 1-2, but was able to battle back for an issued walk, which plated Smith from third, cutting the deficit to 7-6.

"Usually I'm one of those who will chase or foul off a ball if it's anywhere near the plate," Henry said of staying patient for the crucial walk. "The umpire did a good job of calling a ball. I guess I was just seeing the ball well tonight."

Zach Miller stepped to the plate and knotted the game 7-7 with a slow roller to second, scoring Mort and loading the bases once again for Logan Power. But the Rebels wouldn't need his bat this time, as a wild-pitch brought home pinch runner Kyle Henson for a thrilling 8-7 win with 6,844 screaming fans in attendance.

"I thought (Drew) Pomeranz was terrific tonight. I thought one of the differences in the game was (Jordan) Henry. He had a great night offensively. Pomeranz's outing will get lost," said Bianco of the southpaw who threw 108 pitches in his fourth appearance of the year.

"Everyone will be talking about the closers at the end not getting it done, but it was a good ballgame. Not a ton of hits, but some big hits. I thought we pitched well. Scott had a tough outing, but besides that, we were pretty good on the mound."

Ole Miss used a combination of timely steals and clutch hitting to jump ahead, grabbing an early lead in the bottom of the second inning.

After a run in the first, Mort drove a double to left field to plate Jeremy Travis and Smith to start the second. The two had moved to third and second respectively following a bunt by Evan Button.

Henry ripped a single up the middle to drive home Mort, with the Rebels holding a 4-0 lead.

Alabama answered in the third, as Jake Smith led off the inning with a double to the right field wall. After advancing to third on a hard-hit grounder to short, Taylor Dugas brought him home to cut the deficit to 4-1.

Pomeranz found trouble in the top of the fourth, as a lead-off triple by Ross Wilson had the Crimson Tide knocking on the door. But he was tagged out at home on a 5-2-5-1 fielder's choice, with Pomeranz getting the next two batters with a strikeout and groundout.

Smith struck again in the fifth, this time with a homerun, trimming the lead to 4-2. But there would be no further damage in the inning.

Ole Miss was able to score again in the bottom half, as Henry again got on base with a single up the middle. After stealing second, Power ripped a single down the third base line with Henry running, for the fifth run of the game for the Rebels.

DiFazio hit a towering shot to left center in the seventh to cut Ole Miss' lead to 5-3, following in the eighth with another one before the dramatic final inning.

McKean (3-1) recorded the win for the Rebels, retiring both batters he faced in the ninth. Henry finished the game 2-4 at the plate with two runs scored, one walk and two stolen bases. Nelson (1-2) suffered the loss for Alabama.

Ole Miss returns to action Saturday, as the teams meet again at 1:30 p.m.

RHP Phillip Irwin (3-0, 1.59) will take the mound for the Rebels, while LHP Adam Morgan (3-0, 3.33) is set to pitch for Alabama.

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