Ole Miss mustered just four hits off UT pitching, all of them off starter Stephen McCray. Statistically the best of the Tennessee weekend starters, McCray was sensational as Ole Miss got two earned runs and he struck out five.
But McCray did walk five Rebels, and Ole Miss (21-7 overall, 5-3 SEC) simply could not get the timely hit to take a lead the entire contest.
"He was keeping the ball down all day, and we didn't get our best swings off," said Ole Miss DH Matt Snyder. "That happens some games, and today wasn't the day to do it."
Tennessee, which lost to the Rebels 7-3 Friday night, made a statement early in this one, as leadoff batter P.J. Polk sent the second pitch he saw out of the park and into the left field terrace. Although Ole Miss tied it later, UT never trailed in the contest.
The next batter, Khayyan Norfork, doubled, and the Volunteers were getting to Aaron Barrett. But the Rebel senior right-hander settled down and got two strikeouts and a groundout.
Barrett gave his team a chance to win the game, but the Rebel offense could never take advantage. After the Vols went up 2-0, Ole Miss knotted the game in the third inning with a two-run blast by Snyder to left after Matt Smith had reached on a single.
But UT (14-14, 1-7) extended its lead from then on and Ole Miss had no answer. The Vols' Matt Duffy sent a solo shot over the left field wall to make it 3-2 in the top of the fourth. Things stayed that way until the eighth and ninth when Tennessee added two runs off Rebel reliever Eric Callender, including another Polk homer, this time to right, the final run of the game. Matt Crouse finished out the final two-thirds of an inning for UM.
Ole Miss simply could not get anything going against the Vols' pitching, and that included reliever Will Locante, which struck out two of the three he faced, and also Matt Ramsey.
Ramsey actually was a bit shaky early in the ninth, walking the first two batters he faced in Tanner Mathis and Miles Hamblin. But Mort struck out, Ferguson reached on a fielder's choice as Hamblin was out at second. And Alex Yarbrough grounded out to first to end it.
"This one wasn't hard to figure out," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "It's 12 hits to four. Three home runs to none. They just played better than we did today. We had a couple of opportunities early with some HBPs and some walks, but we didn't get the big hit. Normally we get the timely hit with runners in scoring position. Today we didn't do that."
Barrett went 6.2 innings allowing three runs, two earned, on eight hits with seven strikeouts. But he needed some help.
"You have to tip your hat sometimes," Barrett said. "I didn't have my best stuff today. I just tried to compete and give our team a chance to win."
That he did. But it wasn't going to happen without some offensive help.
Now the Rebels try to do something they haven't done in five weeks – win a Sunday game.
Bianco did not announce a starter. UT is scheduled to start sophomore lefty Steven Gruver (1-1, 4.76 ERA).
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