"It's always nice to win, but I didn't think we played very well," the ninth-year UM head coach said after his team improved to 23-8 on the season. "We challenged the kids before the game to be able to come off a good weekend and be able to play well in these midweek games with a small crowd on a chilly night. It looked like we were going to respond for the first three innings. But then it looked like we got content, kinda shut it down and that's disappointing."
The good news, of course, is that the Rebels managed to do enough, especially early, to get the win. It was their seventh victory in a row.
Ole Miss raced out to a 5-0 lead after three innings. It was the top of the sixth before that inning's leadoff hitter Tyler Sanford got the first hit off UM starter Nathan Baker, who had retired 15 batters. The Rebels immediately followed that up with a double play.
But Baker wasn't able to get out of it as UNO scored three runs and the starter gave way to Rory McKean.
McKean got a ground out to prevent any further damage. Baker said he felt fine through five.
"I was cruising for five innings and then gave up some hits," said Baker, who got the win to move to 2-0. "New Orleans actually hit the ball very well tonight, and we had some great position players behind me the entire game."
Baker wound up allowing three runs on five hits with six strikeouts and a walk.
McKean came in and went 2.1 innings, striking out three and walking one. Bianco was impressed.
"Rory might have been the best he's looked all year," he said. "I thought it was his best command night. He really located the ball, got ahead in the count, made some pitches. Every fastball he threw was in the strike zone."
After Baker got the Privateers to go three up, three down in the top of the first inning, the Rebels got two runs in their first at-bat.
Zach Miller's two-out single got Michael Hubbard, who had singled, home for the Rebels' first run. Matt Smith's single got Matt Snyder, who had singled, home.
The Rebs got another run in the bottom of the second. A Jordan Henry sac fly to left scored Kevin Mort, who had doubled.
Two more runs came home in the bottom of the third, thanks to three UNO errors. Miller reached on a fielder's choice which scored Logan Power, who had walked. Matt Smith got aboard via an error on the UNO shortstop, and on the same play the left fielder committed a miscue as Miller raced home for a 5-0 UM advantage.
That's the way things stood until the visitors made a game of it in the top of the sixth with three runs.
Jake Morgan entered in the ninth, gave up a couple of hits, and the Privateers scored a run. But in true Morgan fashion, he got Sanford to strike out looking to end it.
"I didn't think my best stuff was there tonight," said Morgan, getting his third save of the year. "Give credit to them. They swung at good pitches I thought I put in there at the right spot. They battled."
UNO starter Jake Henderson, the first of two pitchers sent to the mound for the Privateers, got the loss to move to 3-3.
New Orleans, now 13-17 this season, actually outhit Ole Miss 7-6. The Rebels didn't get a hit off UNO reliever Ricky Ott, who came in to start the fifth inning.
*** Jordan Henry's fourth-inning double made it 15 games in a row for the Rebel junior to get at least one hit.
*** Ole Miss leads the all-time series with UNO 8-3.
*** The Rebels and Privateers meet again Wednesday night at 6:30 in Oxford. Set to start for the Rebels is LHP Brett Bukvich (3-1, 4.91 ERA). For UNO, RHP Andrew Richardson (0-0, 7.56 ERA) was the listed probable starter, but it appears he may be injured.
*** With three errors against Ole Miss Tuesday night, the Privateers now have 17 in their last four games. Amazingly they almost won them all, with three wins over Grambling and the one-run loss to the Rebels.
*** In SEC games only through four weekends, the Rebel pitching staff has the league's best ERA at 4.46.
*** According to WarrenNolan.com, the Rebels RPI entering Tuesday's games was 24th nationally.
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