Eight Hours Of Baseball

In the top of the 11th Saturday night, the 20th inning played that day, Taylor Hightower raced back and got under a foul ball hit by LSU's Austin Nola. Ball met mitt and the Tigers had two outs in what would be their last at-bat on the day.

The next batter up, Blake Dean, also sent one high and up, and Hightower moved back and maneuvered himself under the ball as best he could toward the visiting dugout but couldn't make the out to end the inning. Dean then flew out to Tim Ferguson in centerfield.

It would be the last time the Rebel sophomore catcher would be behind the plate Saturday during a doubleheader of baseball through those 20 innings. At 1:30 p.m. today when David Goforth pitches for Ole Miss, Hightower will again be behind the plate, hoping for a little bit fewer innings this time around but the same results for his team.

He says it's all in a day's work, and that he really felt pretty good back there, even as late as 11 p.m. after game one had begun at 3 p.m.

"It's not as tough as a lot of people think it is," said Hightower just moments after his workday was complete. "Our thing is to play it pitch by pitch, out by out. I looked up and I had caught like 19 innings or whatever. I really don't even notice it because my goal is to keep guys like (Aaron) Barrett and (Matt) Crouse in line and make sure they have the best chance to win."

That he did all day on Saturday. He caught seven different pitchers – Matt Tracy twice, once in each game. He saw pitches coming his way from Drew Pomeranz, who with nine walks struggled like he hasn't before in college. And Rory McKean, who relieved Pomeranz and was terrific in his three innings of work holding things together.

And he caught Tracy, who in game one allowed a run on two hits in two innings, and then handed off to Brett Huber who faced three batters with no trouble.

Then it was on to game two and Barrett's woes of the first inning, as LSU got four runs. Then Tracy came in and probably shouldn't have as his second stay was short-lived. The Tigers rocked him for three runs on four hits in five batters faced, and that was that.

Hightower was still behind the plate when Trent Rothlin came in and produced two productive innings of work, then caught Crouse as he closed it out over 2.2 innings with a hit but no runs in 10 batters.

Yes, Hightower caught them all. Adjusted to all of them, worked with them, took signals from his coach, relayed those to his pitcher, focused on where the baseball was going, and tried to block up any that were out of the projected area.

Then he went home to rest and get ready to do it all over again. It's a procedure with which he is familiar.

"We have our routines that we stick with. It's all a part of our process," he said. "On a day like today, just drink a lot of water and get a lot of food in you to be ready for being out there so long."

He got a couple of hits on the day, but his teammates handled most of that side of the ball in the two Reb victories. He said those two popups behind the plate near the end of the game were just a part of it.

"Maybe I lost a little bit of focus," he said of the one he didn't get, understandable to say the least. "It wasn't so much that it was too tough of a play to make. We work on that. But maybe I didn't concentrate as much as I should have."

After that much baseball and two victories, all is forgiven, maybe even from Coach Mike Bianco. The former catcher said it was a good day for Hightower behind the plate, but he was only doing what he is supposed to do.

"That's what catchers do," Bianco said, smiling wryly. "Their catcher did the same thing. (Hightower) worked hard back there. He blocked a lot of balls. He throws so well and he really shuts down the running game. We don't have balls past the catcher. It doesn't happen. They don't get any free bases. He's been tremendous all year back there."

Fergie On Fire

Tim Ferguson had a memorable day at the plate and in the field as the Rebel junior centerfielder was superb.

He was 7-for-10 with a walk, two RBI, and three runs scored. And he hit his fifth home run of the season.

Tim Ferguson

His most spectacular moment, however, came on a play in centerfield when he basically climbed the wall in the top of the ninth inning of the second game and robbed Austin Nola of a go-ahead leadoff home run.

"Third one, isn't it?" said Bianco of Ferguson's wall-climbing, homer-robbing, highlight-reel catches this season. "You don't see that very much. Unbelievable just jumping up. He's a tremendous athlete. It was a game-winner. If that ball goes out, we probably don't win. And a tremendous day offensively for him. He really swung the bat well all day."

Ferguson said he enjoyed himself for sure in this one.

"I knew I had two games today to get hot," he said. "I had this stubborn mindset that he (LSU pitchers) wasn't going to get it by me. I knew if I got hot, I'd have a great day."

Ferguson said the Rebels felt they could win the series and do it the first two games.

"This was awesome, especially having the defending national champions coming to our place," he said. "We had the mindset where we could win the series today. And that's exactly what we did."

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