Rallying Rebels

The Jackson State infielders raced in and Evan Button popped a single right over the first baseman and into right field where no Tigers roamed as Ole Miss scored two runs on the play and won 8-7.

The Rebels trailed 7-6 in the bottom of the ninth inning with one at-bat left to at least tie it. Logan Power entered the game and led off with a walk. Matt Smith bunted and the Tiger third baseman threw to second but the ball was dropped.

That's when Button, like Power with his first at-bat of the game, got the job done as Power scored and Smith raced home to win it on a throwing error by the JSU right fielder.

"I squared around and the infielders crashed in, so I just brought it back and something good happened," said Button.

Indeed it did. Two runs scored and Ole Miss moved to 18-8.

"It's a very difficult to do," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said of Button's outstanding at-bat and game-winning hit. "It almost takes a four-year senior and a guy that's got a lot of confidence. Because here you are and the game's on the line. You're supposed to bunt the ball and then to see out of the corner of your eyes the infielders. And he pulls back and swings and he finds the hole. Power scores easily."

Which tied it 7-7. But the play continued.

"Smith sees it and gets a great read right away," Bianco said. "He knows the ball's going to drop. He got into third and didn't have to slide. That's big, because I don't know if he scores (if he slides)."

Bianco said Smith's bunt prior to Button's hit wasn't an unexpected success as some might have thought.

"Matt's one of our better bunters," he said. "A lot of people don't realize that."

Bianco said Jackson State (17-10) is a very good baseball team.

"If you watched the game like I did, you can see how good Jackson State is," Bianco said. "Offensively they're tremendous. And they turned three double plays tonight. Pitching-wise they throw the ball into the strike zone."

Tied 2-2, the Rebels came through with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to take control – temporarily. Matt Snyder and Taylor Hashman both walked to get things started. Matt Smith then sent one just beyond the center field wall, a blast of some 400 feet to put the Rebels up 5-2.

JSU came right back with three runs in the top of the sixth, and this one was headed for an exciting finish.

Ole Miss added a run in the sixth to take a 6-5 lead, but the Tigers got two in the seventh to lead 7-6.

Things remained that way until the thrilling ninth as Ole Miss players mobbed Button after the successful at-bat.

"They were a good team," Button said of JSU, which lost 5-3 here last year. "They got after us. Finally we worked it out. That's what good teams do, win one run games just like that. I'm happy we came out with a victory."

David Goforth, who closed, got the win, pitching two innings with no runs, two hits, a walk and three strikeouts. He was the fourth pitcher called on by the Rebel coaches.

Starter Kyle Barbeck went 4.2 innings with two runs, one earned, on six hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.

Aaron Barrett relieved Barbeck and made it two-thirds of an inning, allowing three runs on two hits with two walks.

Michael Park preceded Goforth, going 1.2 innings with two runs on three hits with a strikeout and a walk.

Quintavious Drains (1-3), the last of three JSU pitchers, got the loss.

Matt Smith was 3-for-4 to pace Ole Miss with four RBI and two runs scored. Kevin Mort was 2-for-4.

Jackson State outhit Ole Miss 13-10. Each team committed two errors.

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Random Notes:

*** Ole Miss is now 10-0 all-time vs. SWAC teams.

*** Freshman catcher Taylor Hightower started and caught eight innings going 1-for-2 with an error. Bianco said all in all a good night for the first-year Rebel.

"We're so demanding on our catchers," he said. "He puts a lot of pressure on himself, too. I pulled him off to the side and told him to relax and just play. It's tough when you're not out there every day to do all the things that we ask. There's no doubt he's very capable."

*** The Rebels play Memphis Wednesday night at Autozone Park, home of the St. Louis Cardinals' AAA affiliate.

Senior LHP Brett Bukvich (3-1, 3.92 ERA) will start for Ole Miss. The Tigers are 10-15 on the season, including a 7-4 loss to Ole Miss in Oxford earlier this season.

*** The Rebels will make their annual visit to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital during the day on Wednesday.

"It's always good to see those kids," Matt Smith said. "You know how baseball players are. You get down when you strike out. It makes you appreciate things and realize you could be in worse situations."

*** The game in Memphis is the Rebels' sixth in six days. Smith said if you're a baseball player, you love playing as many games as possible.

"It's like a big-league team," he said. "They play day after day. Anytime you play this many in a row, it's like a team-building thing. It will help us in the long run in situations where we have to kinda bear down and do good."


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