Hoover Blues

HOOVER, Ala. - No. 3 seeded Ole Miss was eliminated from the SEC Tournament Thursday, as they fell for the second time in as many days. Read about it inside.

After falling to No. 6 seeded Georgia a day earlier, No. 3 Ole Miss exited Hoover quickly after dropping Thursday's elimination game 12-2 to No. 2 seeded Florida in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Senior Brett Bukvich took the loss for the Rebels (40-17), which had entered the tournament having claimed a share of the regular season championship just a week earlier with a sweep of Arkansas. Ole Miss and Florida (39-19) have now faced off a total of 77 times, with the Rebels holding a 39-38 lead in the all-time series.

Thursday's loss marked the first time since 2004 that Ole Miss failed to win at least one game during tournament play.

"Obviously we're disappointed to be leaving the tournament," head coach Mike Bianco said. "Today was more about how good Florida played. Yesterday was a different ballgame where we didn't do enough things and Georgia played well and we lost a close game.

"After the first two innings, (Anthony DeSclafani) just shut us down and we weren't able to do much. Of course, they just continued to hit throughout the game and we just didn't have the answer for them on the mound. You've got to tip your hat to Florida. It shows why they've had such a great season and why we're going home."

Bukvich, who entered the day sporting an ERA of 4.19, avoided serious damage until the fifth inning in his 12th start of the year. He allowed five runs, all earned, with one walk and seven strikeouts over 80 pitches.

"I think he pitched OK," Bianco said of Bukvich's performance. "There was a time where there were two homeruns, but only two hits until the fifth inning. Those were a couple of good at-bats. The fifth just kind of snowballed on him. He fell behind to some hitters, they got to some fastballs and he threw the pickoff away. I really don't think he was that bad today. But he's been better."

Ole Miss fell behind early in the top of the first, as Jonathan Pigott sent his third home run of the year over the left field wall for an early 1-0 Gator lead. However, Bukvich was able to get out of the inning with no further damage, after back-to-back rollers to the mound by Preston Tucker and Josh Adams.

The Rebels responded in the bottom half of the inning, with centerfielder Jordan Henry singling up the middle and stealing second to lead off. Henry advanced to third on a groundout by Logan Power to short, while Kyle Henson notched his 31st RBI of the year with a groundout to short to plate Henry.

After a quiet top of the second for Florida, Ole Miss moved out in front 2-1 in the home half of the inning. David Phillips ripped a single to right field to score Matt Snyder, who had led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a grounder chopped to third by Zach Miller.

Florida tied the game in the fourth, again by way of the homerun, when Tucker unloaded on the first pitch he saw from Bukvich for his fourth homerun of the season.

The Gators regained the lead 4-2 in the fifth, after Avery Barnes knocked a two-run RBI single into left field to plate Buddy Munroe and Mike Mooney. The two had started the inning with back-to-back singles and advanced a base after a throwing error by Bukvich on a pickoff attempt at second.

Redshirt freshman David Goforth entered in relief of Bukvich, but allowed an RBI double by Tucker to score Barnes.

The Gators added three more runs in the sixth, when Pigott hit his second homerun of the day for an 8-2 Florida lead. Pigott's two homeruns for the afternoon marked his first multi-homerun game this season.

Ole Miss squandered a chance to close the deficit in the bottom half of the sixth, as Power led off with a first-pitch single. Smith followed with a single a batter later and Miller took a hit-by-pitch to load the bases. After a pitching change by Florida, however, Phillips grounded out to the mound to end the inning.

"Florida's pitching did a good job," Henry said. "They were able to throw strikes and confuse us with their off-speed. We just weren't able to put innings together. They got some big, timely hits."

With two more runs in the top of the seventh, Florida virtually ended any hope of a Rebel comeback, holding a lead of 10-2.

After relieving Goforth in the sixth and retiring the only batter he faced, RHP Aaron Barrett allowed Adams to reach base on a four-pitch walk. On a 2-2 count, DH Tyler Thompson singled between third and short to put runners at first and second with no outs.

Brandon McArthur executed a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, while Munroe shot a two-RBI single to centerfield for the eight-run lead.

Florida scored two more runs in the eighth, as Tucker notched his fourth RBI of the game to plate Barnes after he lead off the inning with a double against RHP Jake Morgan. The second run came through an infield single by Jerico Weitzel with Tucker running and two outs for a 12-2 final.

Starter Anthony DeSclafani recorded the win for Florida, pitching 5.2 innings of five-hit baseball, with two earned runs and three strikeouts.

For the second-consecutive game, only two Rebels recorded RBIs, with Henson and Phillips totaling one each in the loss. Ole Miss left six runners on base in the effort, while combining for seven hits in 30 at-bats.

The Rebels will now await word on seeding and possibly hosting an NCAA Regional when tournament play begins next week.

"We've lost two games before," Bianco said. "The most we've ever lost in a row all year was two games. Certainly we've had some games where we've gotten banged around a few times and gave up some runs. But this team has always bounced back. As disappointed as we are, I have no doubt that they'll be able to go next week."


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