By Ethan Levine/Special to the Journal
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Two outfield assists and three outs at the plate. Interference called on an attempted steal of second base. A sac fly taken off the board because the runner tagged too early. Five combined errors.
These are the kind of plays that highlighted a 3-2 victory by No. 1 Kentucky over No. 10 Ole Miss in Game 1 of a three-game series at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
It was not your typical top-10 tilt in the SEC, not by a long shot. Kentucky starting pitcher Taylor Rogers allowed 11 hits in just five innings, but was touched up for just two earned runs.
“It’s frustrating,” said Ole Miss second baseman Alex Yarbrough. “We felt like we had a really solid night offensively. We couldn’t scratch across the runs when we had runners on base.”
Both Yarbrough and coach Mike Bianco agreed that the Rebels struggled to find timely hitting as hitters changed their approach and tried to change the game with one swing – an approach both said the team must change over the next two days.
“We got to get shorter swings,” Bianco said. “I felt we kind of lost our approach a little bit.”
Ole Miss starter Bobby Wahl walked three of Kentucky’s first seven batters and only lasted four innings.
“I just didn’t have my stuff,” Wahl said. “We didn’t allow too many runs tonight, didn’t give up too many hits. I think we pitched pretty well. We weren’t as sharp as we could have been, walked a lot of guys, but we bared down and made pitches for the most part. We just didn’t come out on top tonight.”
As hot as Ole Miss’ offense was, and as cold as Kentucky’s was at times, it was a few quirky plays that evened out the game. In the bottom of the fourth, a sacrifice fly by the Wildcats scored what would have been the tying run, but third base umpire David Savage ruled the runner tagged up too early and the run was taken off the board.
Later in the game, Kentucky centerfielder Austin Cousino threw his second base runner out at the plate on a bang-bang play.
Home plate umpire Eric Himmanen amp”said he never got to the plate,” Bianco said. “I couldn’t see it from the dugout. From the dugout it looked like he beat the throw, but he said he never got to the plate.”
Cousino’s two outfield assists, both plays at the plate, acted as the difference between a win and a loss for the Wildcats.
Ole Miss drops to 20-9 (5-5 SEC), but remains fourth in the SEC West standings. The Rebels look to turn the page from this bizarre game and focus on wining the final two games of the weekend series.
“If you win or lose you got to move on to the next day,” Bianco said. “This one hurts because we felt like we had a lot of opportunities to win the game and just couldn’t close it out. But as disappointing as it is, we got to flush it and get ready to play tomorrow.”
The teams play again today at 1 p.m., with R.J. Hively (3-1) pitching for Ole Miss against Kentucky lefty Jerad Grundy (3-0).