Rare Opening Loss

Louisiana-Monroe scored just enough runs, and Ole Miss made just enough mistakes for the Rebels to fall 6-5 and lose their first season opener since 1981.

The big inning for the visiting Warhawks was the top of the fifth when they scored four runs off Rebel reliever Rory McKean to break a 2-2 tie and lead 6-2. But Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said that wasn't the norm for the fifth-year senior right-hander.

"It got away from Rory a little bit, and we've seen Rory enough to know that's not him," Bianco said. "They put like four great at-bats together, and we gave up the four runs."

Bianco said the Warhawks played well for a season-opening game.

"Tip your hat to Monroe. They just played better than us," he said. "I didn't think we played that poorly. They were good on the mound. They didn't walk people. They didn't make any errors. They just didn't give us any opportunities. We had to earn everything we got. And we gave up the big inning, and you can't do that unless they give the big inning back to you. And that didn't happen today."

Another factor for ULM was making starter Drew Pomeranz work hard early and leave the game after four innings, making way for McKean.

"I thought the key was they got Pomeranz out in the fourth inning. And he pitched well," Bianco said of his junior ace who allowed one earned run on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts, facing 21 batters. "They just had some tough at-bats, and we made a couple of miscues in the field. They had some good at-bats and really ran the count and got some walks. I thought he pitched well. But the biggest key is he was out in the fourth, and their (starter) was still in there and had thrown only like 48 pitches."

Pomeranz struggled through the first inning as did the Rebel defense. There was a run scored on just one hit, but errors on Matt Smith and Taylor Hightower coupled with two walks left three men on base when the final out of the frame was recorded. The damage could have been worse.

The Rebels tied the game in the bottom of the second on an RBI single by Tanner Mathis, scoring David Phillips who had doubled right before him.

The Warhawks took the lead 2-1 in the top of the third on an RBI triple by Matt Laird.

The Rebels tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the third when Kevin Mort led off with a single to right. Tim Ferguson moved him to second on a ground out to short. Miles Hamblin walked. Smith was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

After Matt Snyder struck out swinging, Zach Miller was hit by a pitch on a 1-0 count to score Mort and tie the game.

Pomeranz got out of a jam in the top of the fourth with no damage. But that would be his last action of the day as McKean came in to start the top of the fifth.

A Caleb Clowers RBI single got the fourth run of the frame home for a 6-2 visitor's advantage. That chased McKean. Matt Tracy came on with one out and a Warhawk on first and was able to hold things right there.

A one-out two-run homer off the top of the center field wall by Matt Smith cut the ULM lead to 6-4 and chase starter Drew Granier from the contest.

The Rebels got a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth from David Phillips to center field to cut the ULM lead to 6-5. And that would be all the scoring in this one. Phillips was the lone Rebel with multiple hits, with a double and a home run. ULM outhit Ole Miss 10-8.

Tracy went 3.2 innings, allowing no runs on two hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Brett Huber finished things up with three strikeouts in the ninth.

"Both Tracy and Huber were terrific with great command and had great location with a lot of their pitches," Bianco said. "They kept them at bay and allowed us to have a chance at the end. But we couldn't put the inning together."

In the bottom of the ninth, Ferguson worked the count to 3-0 but watched three strikes go by. Hamblin flew out to left, and Smith grounded out to the pitcher to end it.

"We had a chance at the end," Bianco said. "It's the first game of the year, and they didn't walk but two guys and they didn't make any errors. If you're going to do that, then you can't do it on the other side. We had five walks and two errors. Hard to win that."

McKean got the loss, while the second of four pitchers used by ULM, Stefan Comeaux, got the win. The final Warhawk pitcher, Wil Browning, got a save.

Ole Miss and Louisiana-Monroe play Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the second of three games this weekend. The series finale is Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

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