Two Down

Ole Miss got what it wanted by beating Western Kentucky 7-4 Saturday and what it needed from its pitchers and a freshman hitter.

Phillip Irwin, David Goforth, and Jake Morgan gave up 12 hits collectively but only four runs. And Matt Snyder broke out of a recent slump to launch a three-run homer that gave the Rebels some cushion in the fifth inning.

With one out and two aboard in the form of walks by Evan Button and Logan Power, Snyder came up to the plate and sent the first pitch he saw out of the park.

Ole Miss was up 2-0 at the time, and that seemed to be the lift Ole Miss was looking for.

"We did what we've done all year, and that's get some key, timely hits," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco after his team improved to 42-17. "None was bigger than Matt Snyder's home run."

Snyder, with four hits in his last 33 at-bats prior, said he didn't look back or ahead, just took one pitch and one at-bat at a time.

"I was just trying to stay focused on staying aggressive at the plate and getting my best swing off," the freshman DH said. "He (WKU starter Shane Cameron) didn't make that many mistakes during the game, but he left that changeup up. He mixed his pitches really well. I was just fortunate enough to hit that ball and got a good swing on it. It felt good."

It felt good for the Rebels collectively as they were up 5-0 with Irwin cruising.

The junior righty went 6.2 innings allowing a good hitting team 11 hits but only four runs, three earned, with nine strikeouts and no walks. He admitted feeling better after the Rebels got him some more runs than the two they had through four innings.

"When you get a lead like that, it takes the pressure off of you," said Irwin, 8-3 on the year now. "My job was to fill up the zone and throw a lot of strikes. I kept the hitters off balance, threw a lot of strikes, and everything was pretty easy."

The Rebels, with 13 hits in the contest, led 7-0 after five and a half.

The Hilltoppers came back with two runs in the bottom of the sixth, a two-run home run by senior Chad Cregar of Oxford, and followed that up with two more runs in the seventh on a two-RBI single by Matt Rice.

Irwin had pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the third, and in the sixth got a popup and a strikeout with two on and two in.

Goforth pitched to one batter in the seventh and got a fly ball to right for the final out of that inning. After walking the leadoff batter in the eighth, Goforth exited and Morgan entered.

The Hilltoppers (40-19) said they hadn't seen better arms all season than they saw from the Rebels.

"The difference in the game was their pitching," said WKU head coach Chris Finwood. "They were probably the best three arms we've seen this year."

His players echoed that.

"I can't think of any better," said Hilltopper Wade Gaynor, with 23 home runs on the season. "When you play SEC schools, you know they've got good arms. Irwin, especially early in the game, was as good as we've seen this year."

"That's a great compliment coming from a team like Western Kentucky," said Morgan, with his ninth save of the year. "They hit really well and all their swings look really good. That's a great compliment and gives us all confidence."

Bianco said Irwin gave the Rebels just what they needed on this day.

"The difference for us, especially early, was Phillip Irwin," Bianco said. "He was just very dominant and looked very sharp. He didn't look like a guy who hasn't taken the mound in a couple of weeks. He pitched out of a lot of jams, and to a very good offense."

Cameron, one of four pitchers used by the Hilltoppers, got the loss and is 5-2 on the season.

Ole Miss now awaits the winner of Sunday's 1 p.m. game featuring WKU and Missouri, which eliminated Monmouth 9-0 earlier on Saturday. The Rebels will play at 5 p.m. against the victor.

The Rebels will send fifth-year senior left-hander Brett Bukvich (9-3, 4.61 ERA) to the mound against whichever team they face.

If Ole Miss wins, the Rebels advance to a Super Regional next weekend. If they lose, there is another game here Monday at 7 p.m. to determine the champion of the Oxford Regional.

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