Rebels Fall

HOOVER, Ala. - No. 3 seeded Ole Miss wasn't able to overcome a sixth inning grand slam by Georgia's Matt Cerione Wednesday, falling 6-3 in the first round of this week's SEC Tournament. Read about it inside.

A perceived pitching duel through the first five innings turned into an easy win for No. 6 seeded Georgia over No. 3 Ole Miss in the first round of the SEC Tournament, as sophomore Drew Pomeranz surrendered all four of his earned runs in the sixth inning for a 6-3 loss Wednesday afternoon.

With the loss, the Rebels (40-16) drop to the loser's side of the bracket and will face No. 2 seeded Florida Thursday at 10 a.m. Ole Miss is now 23-20 all-time in the SEC Tournament.

"Well, I thought it was a really good college baseball game," head coach Mike Bianco said. "Games like today happen in baseball. Sometimes you get hits against a team, but they get the big hits. Certainly (Matt) Cerione's grand slam was the difference maker on the day. Drew (Pomeranz) was kinda cruising until that inning."

Pomeranz entered the sixth having thrown only 59 pitches and with a 1-0 lead, but allowed Zach Cone and Levi Hymas to reach base on consecutive singles to start the inning. After Peter Verdin walked with one out to load the bases, Matt Cerione unloaded on a 0-1 fastball for a grand slam over the left-center wall for a 4-1 Georgia lead.

Junior Nathan Baker relieved Pomeranz with one out in the inning and was able to retire the next two batters to end the threat.

"He had been struggling hitting the curve ball the whole game and hadn't put too many swings on it," Pomeranz said of Cerione's grand slam. "So we doubled up the curve ball and he ran right into it. I was just trying to attack the zone like I had all game."

Ole Miss inched closer in the bottom half of the sixth, as Matt Smith reached base on an error by Bulldog first baseman Rich Poythress.

Kyle Henson, who finished 3-for-5 from the plate on the day, then followed with a single between third and short to put men on first and second with one out. After Zach Miller drew a walk, right fielder David Phillips sent a sacrifice fly to left field to plate Smith and cut the deficit at 4-2.

"The biggest thing for me the whole year is just trying to stay consistent," Henson said of his hitting day. "I had a good weekend last weekend, but I wanted to carry it over to the tourney. I just kept swinging and tried to get the runners in."

Georgia (36-20) responded, however, as Baker ran into trouble in the seventh. Cone singled to start the inning and moved to second after a throwing error by Baker past Smith at first. A wild pitch moved Cone to third, while Miles Starr took a hit-by-pitch to put runners on the corners.

A single by Verdin down the third base line plated Cone, marking only the seventh RBI for the Bulldog right fielder this season. Verdin's single also moved Starr to third, where he came home on a SAC fly by Cerione – his fifth RBI on the day.

Trailing 6-3 at that point, the Rebel offense couldn't put together a rally, falling to Georgia for the second time this season.

"I don't think we really pressed (offensively)," Smith said. "I don't think we've pressed as an offense all year honestly. We just tried to stick with what got us to where we are today, which is being consistent and staying aggressive for the most part. But with them, they were running pitchers in-and-out. It's definitely a case of seeing pitches from different angles, but I don't think it really throws you off-balance."

Pomeranz, who entered the day sporting an ERA of 3.95, was unhittable early, until finally surrendering his first hit of the game in the fourth inning to Verdin.

However, he wasn't able to carry the momentum throughout his 13th start of the year, finishing with a line of four earned runs, three walks and six strikeouts over 91 pitches.

Baker pitched 3.2 innings in relief, allowing two earned runs and no walks, while striking out seven.

Justin Grimm was credited with the win for Georgia, pitching 5.1 innings of eight-hit baseball. He allowed two runs in victory, one earned, with three strikeouts over 78 pitches.

Four relief pitchers combined to preserve the win, as Will Harvell, Jeff Walters, Justin Earls and Dean Weaver all made appearances.

Weaver was able to gain his 10th of the season, pitching 1.2 innings of scoreless relief with two strikeouts.

Ole Miss left 13 runners on base, with 10 hits in 31 combined at-bats. Henson and Evan Button were the only Rebels attributed with an RBI, while the team finished with seven strikeouts on the day.

LHP Brett Bukvich takes the mound for the Rebels against Florida, sporting an overall record of 9-2. Bukvich is fourth all-time at Ole Miss in wins and enters tomorrow's elmination game with an ERA of 4.19.

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