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No. 18 Rebels suffer series loss after Sunday's first-inning struggles

Alex Edwards/The Daily Mississippian



STARKVILLE – For the second week in a row, Ole Miss gave up four runs in the first that ultimately decided the outcome of the game as the No. 18 Rebels (28-16, 10-11 SEC) dropped the series for the second consecutive year to rival Mississippi State (27-17, 10-11 SEC) with a 4-2 loss in Sunday’s series finale.

“Just disappointing,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “It was one that I thought we gave away in the first inning. We hit as many people today as we have in a month. It was one of those things where the first inning just got away from us.

“Tanner had trouble finding the strike zone. We give them four runs, and they only get one hit – no errors, but a bunch of walks and HBPs.”

Last week it was freshman right-hander Sam Smith, who was hit hard by Arkansas, and this week it was junior right-hander Tanner Bailey, who didn’t even record an out in his first Southeastern Conference start of his career.

Bailey started the game with a walk, single, hit-by-pitch and another walk to give Mississippi State a 1-0 lead with the bases loaded and no outs before being lifted by Bianco for junior left-hander Dylan Chavez.

Then Chavez came in and got a strikeout before hitting two more Mississippi State batters and giving up a sacrifice fly to put the Rebels in a 4-0 hole before getting out of the inning. Bailey’s final line was 0.0 innings pitched giving up four runs on one hit.

From there, Chavez and the Ole Miss bullpen held Mississippi State scoreless. Chavez went 4.1 innings giving up no runs, one hit and hit two batters before being lifted in favor of freshman right-hander Hawtin Buchanan, who threw 2.0 innings giving up three walks and two hit batters.

Ole Miss out-hit Mississippi State, 8-2, and had opportunities to cut into the lead, but the Rebels couldn’t deliver the big hit in the contest. Ole Miss was 1-for-19 with runners on base and 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

The Rebels got a leadoff double in both the third and fifth innings to no avail. In the fourth, senior first baseman Matt Snyder was robbed of a home run.

Snyder eventually got an RBI in the eighth when he hit a double off the top half of the “Green Monster”-like wall in centerfield that surely would’ve been a home run in just about any other ballpark to score freshman Jake Overbey, who came in as a pinch runner.

Senior Zach Kirksey managed to hit one over the wall in left for a solo home run to start the ninth to end the scoring at 4-2. Junior second baseman Alex Yarbrough’s hit streak also came to an end at 22 games with a 0-for-4 performance despite some hard-hit balls.

“You think about it a little bit,” Yarbrough said of the streak. “It’s something that’s nice to have, but you can’t let it affect your outlook going up to the plate. It would’ve been nice to have kept it going. I hit the ball good twice today, but that’s why hit streaks are so difficult to keep going.”

Junior right-hander Brett Huber made his first appearance since April 14 against Georgia, pitching the final 1.2 innings giving up no runs on no hits with a walk and two strikeouts.


STARKVILLE – Ole Miss took advantage of three Mississippi State errors, while senior starter-turned-reliever R.J. Hively pitched four shutout innings in relief in a 6-2 win Saturday afternoon to even the weekend series.

“(Hively) has been terrific,” Bianco said. “When you make the move, that’s what you hope for. Certainly, he did that last Saturday in the 1-0 win against Arkansas and then to do it again today. We sent him down there (to warm up) and just couldn’t get him in the game fast enough.

“You hope you don’t have to bring him in until the seventh, but today we had to. He has been tremendous and just dominant, much like (Scott) Bittle, (Jake) Morgan, Stephen Head and some guys that we have had in the past. He has been like that.”

Ole Miss got it going early with a two-out, two-run home run from senior first baseman Matt Snyder, his 10th of the season, to give the Rebels the 2-0 lead in the first inning.

Sophomore right-hander Mike Mayers scattered three hits with a walk and four strikeouts through five innings before a leadoff walk, followed by a game-tying two-run home run in the sixth, chased him from the game. Hively came on in relief and retired the next three batters in order to get out of the inning.

Ole Miss regained the lead in the seventh with a two-out RBI single from sophomore shortstop Austin Anderson. With senior Blake Newalu pinch running at second and junior Sikes Orvis at first due to a throwing error, Anderson singled through the right side of the infield to score Newalu. An error on the play allowed Orvis to score as the throw from the outfield went to the fence down the left field line.

“I thought it was a huge hit from a guy that has been struggling, so hopefully that will get him going,” Bianco said of Anderson’s RBI single.

Mississippi State threatened in the eighth, loading the bases with two outs on a single, walk and fielder’s choice. Hively then got a fly out to end the inning.

Ole Miss added to the lead in the ninth when junior left fielder Tanner Mathis was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. The next batter, junior third baseman Andrew Mistone, struck out on a wild pitch, but the ball rolled away from the catcher, allowing Mistone to reach and another run to score.


STARKVILLE – Junior right-hander Chris Stratton for Mississippi State threw a complete game shutout to propel the Bulldogs to a 4-0 win against Ole Miss in Friday night’s series opener.

“I thought really the story of the game was Stratton,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “He was tremendous. I thought he gave us very little, if any, opportunities to do anything offensively.”

The Rebels had a chance to get on the board in the first after junior left fielder Tanner Mathis led the game off with a walk and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, but Ole Miss was not able to drive him in.

Mississippi State used some help from the Rebels to score a couple of runs in the third. Shortstop Adam Frazier got a two-out single and advanced to third on a wild pitch from sophomore right-hander Bobby Wahl.

Then a short groundball to sophomore shortstop Austin Anderson would have ended the inning, but Anderson bobbled the ball to allow the first run. After the error, designated hitter Trey Porter and third baseman Daryl Norris hit back-to-back singles to score another run.

Yarbrough tried to answer for the Rebels in the fourth with a leadoff double, but once again Ole Miss stranded a runner in scoring position. Yarbrough accounted for three of the Rebels’ five hits with a 3-for-4 performance, but he was still impressed with Stratton on the mound.

“He was throwing all three pitches around the zone all night, and all three are really plus pitches,” Yarbrough said. “His fastball has great life on it. His changeup is good too, especially to lefties, and that slider – he was all around the zone with it all night. It had great late action to righties. I’m glad I’m left-handed because I wouldn’t want to deal with that right-handed. Even as a lefty, I swung and missed at it twice.

“He was great. He’s made great strides from last year and up in the Cape (Cod). He might be the best pitcher we’ve faced this year.”

Wahl suffered his first loss of the season going 6.0 innings giving up three runs, one earned, on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. Stratton’s final line was 9.0 innings of works with five hits, one walk and seven strikeouts.