By Evan Levine/Special to the Journal
LEXINGTON, Ky.- Fans of the Kentucky baseball team, top ranked last week in one poll, were sent home happy on Easter Sunday after the Wildcats defeated No. 10 Ole Miss 8-3 in the rubber match of their three-game weekend series.
In Saturday’s showdown, an eight-run fifth inning by Ole Miss was the deciding sequence in the Rebels’ victory. Sunday, it was a five-run sixth inning that gave Kentucky control of the game.
Trailing 2-1, UK’s Austin Cousino singled to start the inning, and after Thomas McCarthy was hit in the back and A.J. Reed walked on nine pitches, it was Luke Maile who tied the game on a single to the left side of the infield. With the bases still loaded, Cameron Flynn stepped into the box and promptly untied the game with a grand slam over the right field wall.
“I didn’t make as many quality pitches (in the sixth inning),” Ole Miss starting pitcher R.J. Hively said. “The game is usually lost on five pitches throughout the game, and that inning they did a really good job of fouling off quality pitches and hitting my mistakes.”
Hively, whose start was pushed back one day due to a sore arm on Saturday, had allowed just two hits and one run before the sixth inning.
“I think you have to credit Kentucky’s pitching, all weekend they pitched well except for the one inning, similar to us,” Ole Miss Head Coach Mike Bianco said. “I thought we pitched well all weekend except for the one inning.”
Opposite Hively on the mound was Kentucky’s Corey Littrell, who earned the win Sunday.
Littrell allowed nine hits but just two runs in six innings. It was the second time in the series that Ole Miss lost despite recording more hits than the Wildcats.
“Whenever we have a guy up with runners at first and second or second and third we have to come up with a big hit,” Ole Miss second baseman Alex Yarbrough said. “That’s why we won (Saturday). We have to string more hits together with guys on base.”
The victory was UK’s fourth consecutive series victory in the SEC, preserving the team’s spot atop the conference standings. The Wildcats came from behind in both victories over the weekend, a staple of their scrappy style of play.
For the Rebels, the loss drops their conference record to an even 6-6 with a road trip to Georgia looming next weekend. Bianco hopes his team can find its clutch gene between now and then.
“It seemed like when we were in critical situations, (Kentucky) battled and got some clutch base hits and we didn’t,” Bianco said.