Battling To Victory

Even the best don't always have their best. Drew Pomeranz admitted he wasn't at his best Friday night in the series opener against Tennessee. But he battled and got a lot of help from his offense.

Ole Miss beat Tennessee 7-3, but it wasn't necessarily as easy as the score might indicate. It was a battle most of the way – for the Rebels and for Pomeranz.

"I threw something like 37 balls with my fastball and 31 strikes," said Pomeranz who made it through seven innings and one batter, which he walked in the eighth. "I was struggling in the pen even before the game. I was just cutting my fastball really bad. It would go straight sometimes. It was really difficult to throw a ball straight today. And I don't know why."

So Pomeranz, with seven strikeouts and a career-high six walks, went to some backup.

"I had to rely on my curve ball, which I feel like I pumped into the zone pretty good," he said. "That's what helped me out a lot."

Pomeranz took a look at the scoreboard to see when he felt like he got things straightened out a bit.

"I kind of fixed it in like the sixth inning," he said. "I tried to slow it down a bit and tried to drop it in the spot a little bit. But that leadoff walk in the eighth, I was still cutting it bad. It was just a minor mechanical thing. Nights like this I have to rely on my curve ball."

And his teammates. The Rebels (21-6 overall, 5-2 in the SEC) got 13 hits off Tennessee pitchers, including 10 off Friday night starter Bryan Morgado.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said his team did a good job at the plate, and that Pomeranz proved once again how good he is.

"Certainly he wasn't at his best tonight," Bianco said of the ace. "He probably walked more than he did in a very long time. He had a dominant curve ball, and he hung in there. He had only 27 pitches the first three innings and that enabled him to stay in there. You walk six and throw more balls than strikes with your fast ball and you're still there in the eighth with only three runs and five hits. It just shows you how good he is."

The Rebels got on the board in the second as a double play ball by David Phillips actually got Matt Snyder home after the Rebel DH reached on a walk.

In the third Ole Miss added two more runs. The bases were loaded when Snyder walked to score Kevin Mort, who had reached on a base hit. A fly ball to center field by Zach Miller scored Alex Yarbrough from third after the Rebel freshman second baseman had reached on an infield single.

UT (13-14, 0-7) scored two runs in the fourth as third baseman Matt Duffy singled to left to get two runs home. In the top of the fifth the Volunteers tied it with a home run into the Rebels' bullpen in left as Chris Fritts led off with a solo shot to make it 3-3.

But in the bottom of the fifth, Matt Smith answered with a leadoff homer of his own, also into the home team bullpen in left which made it 4-3 Ole Miss.

The Rebels added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth as Tim Ferguson sent a two-run blast to – where else? – the Rebels' bullpen in left. Kevin Mort had singled with two outs and up came the Rebels' centerfielder to make it 6-3.

It was 7-3 in the bottom of the seventh as Miller singled with one out and Hightower singled to get him home after Miller moved to second on a ground out by Phillips.

After Brett Huber relieved Pomeranz with a man on in the eighth and no outs, the Rebel freshman struck out three and allowed just two hits the rest of the way.

In the ninth the Vols made a bit of noise, trailing by two runs, when they got a couple aboard. But Huber was able to get a two-out groundout to Miller at third, who threw to Smith at first in what appeared initially to be a safe call that would have kept things alive for UT. But the umpire decided that Khayyan Norfolk, running to first, had gotten out of the base paths, thus ending the game.

Ferguson said it was an excellent night for the Rebel bats.

"The offense was real good, and we need to keep doing that," he said. "Only three runs and five hits from Drew, and that will give you a chance every time out."

Pomeranz moved to a perfect 5-0 on the year, while Morgado, by some preseason projections a first-round draft pick, fell to 2-3.

Pomeranz said he knew heading to the mound in the first this one would be a challenge.

"You just keep battling," he said. "Games like this are when you find out the most about yourself, when you don't have your best stuff and you keep battling and battling. It's all about competing."

Which is certainly what Pomeranz and his teammates did in game one against the Vols.

First pitch Saturday is set for 4 p.m. Senior RHP Aaron Barrett (6-0, 2.13 ERA) heads to the mound for the Rebs, while UT is scheduled to start senior RHP Stephen McCray (2-3, 1.89).

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