Protect Your Ace

HOOVER, Ala. - Ole Miss rode the efforts of Drew Pomeranz and Miles Hamblin to a 3-0 win over South Carolina in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament Wednesday. Read about it inside.

A towering, two-run home run over the right field fence was all Ole Miss ace, Drew Pomeranz, needed.

The hard-throwing lefty sprinkled six hits over 7.0 innings of work, while junior Miles Hamblin provided a spark for an anemic Ole Miss offense with his fifth home run of the season in the top of the fourth inning, as the Rebels beat South Carolina, 3-0, in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament Wednesday afternoon.

With the win, the Rebels (37-20) advance to meet Alabama Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

"It was a great college baseball game," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "You don't see very many of them. You can see why we're so happy to have Drew Pomeranz on our side. (He had) another tremendous effort against one of the best teams in the country."

Pomeranz earned his eighth win, compared to only two losses, struck out seven and issued only one walk. He threw 108 pitches, before giving way to closer Brett Huber for a two-inning save.

"We spoke after the seventh (inning) and he said he was done, getting tired," Bianco said. "We know Brett can do the two-inning thing. We started to get him warmed up and when (Pomeranz) said that, we knew right away."

Pomeranz, who entered the game with a sparkling 2.39 ERA, pitched around trouble early.

Drew Pomeranz

South Carolina (43-14) put two runners on in the bottom of the second inning, but consecutive groundouts to shortstop Kevin Mort ended the threat. The corners were covered with only one out an inning later. However, Pomeranz notched back-to-back strikeouts.

He coasted the rest of the way.

"I felt pretty good," Pomeranz said. "I've been struggling a little bit with my rhythm the last couple of starts, but I felt really good out there. I was around the plate a lot."

The game was scoreless until the fourth inning, when Hamblin worked a 3-2 count against Gamecock starter, Nolan Belcher. With Matt Snyder standing at first base, Hamblin turned on an inside, belt-high fastball for a home run that easily cleared the right field wall.

Hamblin, who Bianco said had been swinging the bat better lately, was hitting only .224 before Wednesday.

"I've been trying to swing the bat hard and put good swings on it," he said. "Just like that last (at-bat), (Belcher) was filling up the strike zone. I was getting some strikes to hit. I got the pitch I wanted, put a good swing off and a good thing happened."

Ole Miss added some insurance in the top of the seventh inning.

Matt Smith singled with two outs in the frame and Snyder reached on an infield single. Senior Taylor Hashman then followed with a two-out, RBI-single through the hole between third and short for the deciding 3-0 score.

"Today, we gave ourselves some opportunities," Bianco said. "We just haven't had opportunities. It's not just hits, we don't have any baserunners. The amounts of chances we have to score runs are so few. But today we gave ourselves some opportunities. Yeah, we blew some of them. But hopefully today was a start for more (offense)."

Belcher, one of six pitchers used by head coach Ray Tanner, pitched 3.0 innings, with two hits, two earned runs and three strikeouts. He fell to 3-1 on the year.

Five relievers combined to allow seven hits and only one earned run over the final six innings.

"Our pitching staff did a pretty good job today giving us a chance to win the game," Tanner said. "That being said, you saw why Pomeranz is one of the toughest guys in the country. He doesn't give you a whole lot. We got a few hits, but we couldn't put anything together."

Random Notes:

Ole Miss left nine men on base for the game, compared to eight for South Carolina… Smith, who was 1-for-4, stole his third base of the year in the seventh inning… Huber, after blowing his first save of the season in a 5-3 loss to Auburn last weekend, rebounded with two innings pitched and no runs allowed... Alabama will send RHP Nathan Kilcrease to the mound Thursday. Ole Miss will counter with senior RHP Aaron Barrett.

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