SEC Baseball April 13, 2012

By School Reports

No. 18 Rebels fall 6-3 in Game Two at Georgia

Ole Miss Media Relations
ATHENS, Ga. – On a night where the hits were even, it was the timing of the hits that proved to be the difference as No. 18 Ole Miss (23-12, 6-8 SEC) fell to Georgia (22-13, 7-7 SEC) by a score of 6-3 on Friday night at Foley Field.

The two teams matched hit production with nine hits each, but the Bulldogs came up with the big hit early to push out to an insurmountable lead on the Rebels.

R.J. Hively (3-3) took the loss for the Rebels, allowing five runs on seven hits with a walk and five strikeouts. Ole Miss would use four pitchers on the night as Tanner Bailey, Josh Laxer and Hawtin Buchanan closed things out down the stretch, combining to limit the Bulldogs to one run on two hits with three walks and six strikeouts in the final 5.0 innings.

Alex Wood (5-1) picked up the win for the Bulldogs, working 7.1 innings and allowing three runs on eight hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. Bryan Benzor picked up his first save, working the final 1.2 innings and holding the Rebels to one hit. Benzor entered the game with two men in scoring position and one out in the eighth inning and Georgia up 5-1.

“Alex Wood was tremendous tonight and just wouldn’t give in,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “We had scoring opportunities early and we didn’t get them in. We have to maximize opportunities. Georgia was able to get the timely hit the past two days and really get the clutch hit.”

Georgia got on the board in the second inning when Curt Powell hit a two-RBI double to the wall in right field with two outs. The two-run hit was set up by a shot up the middle from Connor Welton that deflected off the glove of Hively and into the outfield, allowing the lead runner to move to third on a ball that would have gotten the Rebels out of the inning.

The Bulldogs built on the lead in the fourth inning when Jared Walsh took the first pitch he saw over the wall in right field to make it 3-0 in favor of Georgia.

The lead continued to grow from there with the Bulldogs pushing two more runs across the plate. One man on, Connor Welton reached on a fielder’s choice on a ground ball to short for the first out before a single through the right side put men at the corners. Georgia then executed a double steal to bring home a run and move Powell to second.

Powell took third on a wild pitch and scored a batter later on a sac fly to center before Ole Miss would get out of the inning down 5-0.

Ole Miss cut into the lead in the fifth inning when John Gatlin delivered and RBI-double down the third base line that scored Preston Overbey. Overbey doubled to the wall in right center in the previous at bat to open the fifth for the Rebels. The run put Ole Miss on the board with the score at 5-1.

The Rebels continued to chip away at the lead in the eighth, getting two runs home to cut the lead in half. A Bousfield single and Yarbrough double opened the inning before a Will Allen ground out brought Bousfield home. Yarbrough advanced to third on the play and then scored on an infield single from pinch hitting Austin Anderson to make it 5-3.

Georgia got a run back in the bottom of the inning when Peter Verdin scored from second on a single to center from Welton. Bousfield made a nice throw to the plate from center, but Verdin evaded the tag to score and Welton advanced to second on the play.

The three-run lead would hold as Ole Miss could manage nothing in the ninth and Georgia clinched the weekend series.

Ole Miss and Georgia will play the final game of the three-game set at noon CT on Saturday.

No. 7 Gamecocks rally to edge Diamond Dogs, 7-6

MSU Media Relations
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Mississippi State found more heartbreak Friday night at Carolina Stadium.

The Bulldogs surrendered a three-run lead in the eighth inning, falling 7-6 to No. 7 South Carolina in the opening game of a three-game Southeastern Conference weekend series.

MSU had won three straight series openers. On this night, the Maroon and White could not make it four straight; instead, dropping a one-run decision in conference play for the fourth time this season. MSU is now 21-13 overall and 5-8 in league play, while the two-time defending national champions improved to 25-10 and 6-7.

“I thought our kids played great,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “Once again, we went on the road in a great atmosphere and I thought we out-competed our opponent. We kept battling. We kept competing. We certainly deserved to win the ballgame.”

MSU junior right-hander Chris Stratton delivered another splendid Friday night start. Stratton left the contest with a 6-4 lead and two outs in the eighth inning. Closer Caleb Reed (0-5) suffered his first blown save of the season, as the Gamecocks rallied for three scores and plated the game-winner on a wild pitched third strike.

“Chris had one bad inning where he got behind some people,” Cohen said. “Other than that, he was outstanding. Caleb made the right pitches but didn’t have anything to show for it. We jam a batter and he does not get all of it. Because it is mis-hit the ball falls in there and (Brent) Brownlee can’t make the catch.

“Then you get a strikeout to end the inning but it is not blocked up. Mitch (Slauter) is so great at blocking up behind the plate. You don’t expect them to be able to score a run that way. It hurts when you make all the right pitches and then get penalized for it. Sometimes, that is how this game is.”

South Carolina staked all-American pitching ace Michael Roth to a three-run lead in the third inning. After not threatening in the first two at-bats, the Gamecocks reached Stratton for three runs on four hits. A two-run single by JB Dantzler was the big blow in the inning.

The Bulldogs began to rally with a C.T. Bradford solo home run in the fifth inning. MSU chased Roth with four runs in the sixth inning to grab a two-run lead. A solo home run by Wes Rea began the big sixth inning. Trey Porter reached as a hit batsman. Hunter Renfroe followed with a double.

A two-run triple by C.T. Bradford placed the Bulldogs on top 4-3. Bradford would then cap the inning by scoring on a groundball out. An inning later, an RBI-double by Daryl Norris gave the Bulldogs a critical insurance score.

In the eighth inning, Stratton got the first two outs before Grayson Greiner slammed a solo home run. Stratton was lifted after a single by Adam Matthews.

Reed was touched for a double by pinch-hitter Brison Celek and a two-run triple by pinch-hitter Sean Sullivan. Sullivan’s hit snuck past Brownlee on his diving attempt at a catch. Sullivan then scored the game-winner on a wild pitched third strike, which would have ended the inning.

“We were down 3-0 on the road in a great atmosphere,” Cohen said. “The kids kept battling. They kept competing. They kept battling hard. Still, you have to find a way to win games like this.”

Closer Matt Price retired the side in order in the ninth inning for his second save. Evan Beal (2-3) picked up the win with one out of middle relief work. Stratton allowed nine hits and five runs (all earned), with 11 strikeouts and two walks in 7.2 innings of work.

The Bulldogs finished with seven hits, including two hits and three RBIs for Bradford.

The Gamecocks finished with 11 hits, including two hits by Greiner.

The series resumes at 3 p.m. Saturday.