STARKVILLE One game can’t erase a season of SEC frustration for the Ole Miss Rebels. But Friday night helped. It really helped.
“We’ve been due for something good to happen to us for the past two months,” said Rebel hurler Richy Harrelson, seconds after Ole Miss put together a two-out rally in the ninth inning Friday night for an 8-7 win over Mississippi State.
The mostly partisan crowd of 3,486 at Dudy Noble Field were stunned as the Bulldogs were within one out of a win that would’ve pushed them into sole possession of second place in the SEC Western Division race.
Suddenly, Keith Lewis singled to right field and Todd Mensik singled up the middle. Jason Huisman, who was 3-for-3 with two doubles, was intentionally passed by MSU reliever Scott Polk.
Brad Henderson, a Tupelo freshman, ripped a 3-2 pitch directly at MSU shortstop Adam Piatt. The Bulldogs appeared to have preserved a 6-5 win.
“The ball took a little bite off the dirt, but I should’ve made the play. That’s no excuse,” said Piatt, who saw the ball skip through his legs and into left field, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs.
“I hit it right at him,” Henderson said. “I hit it hard, but it was right at him. I guess we were due for something to go right.”
Chris Lotterhos added an RBI single and Matthew Duff came on for Harrelson to get the save. Even so, MSU had the winning run at the plate, after Piatt doubled home Brian Clark to cut it to 8-7, before Duff nailed it down.
“If we can finish strong, it does a lot to help us deal with this season,” Rebel coach Don Kessinger said. “I’ve been saying all along that this team isn’t that bad.
“It’s just been a team that hasn’t pushed across runs in key situations. To do this tonight, well, it means a lot to these guys.”
MSU head coach Ron Polk, who was screened out by third baseman Richard Lee and didn’t see the decisive ground ball, said, “I couldn’t tell what happened.”
The loss dropped MSU (34-17 overall) to 15-10 in the SEC Western Division race, locked with Alabama for second place. LSU (17-88) leads the race, with the top two division finishers earning first-round byes in the SEC Tournament in Birmingham May 15-19.
For the Rebels (22-27 overall), a team that Kessinger says, “knows it isn’t going anywhere after the regular season,” the win improved them to 5-20 in the SEC and 4-3 in the past seven SEC starts.
The contest was an offensive see-saw affair that saw starters Dan DeYoung of Ole Miss and MSU’s David Hooten fail to make it out of the seventh inning.
Paced by Rob Hauswald’s performance, including a two-RBI single to highlight a three-run fifth inning, MSU appeared to be in control at 6-3.
The Rebels got within 6-5 with solo runs in the sixth and seventh innings, setting the stage for the two-out, nobody-on rally in the top of the ninth inning.
“It’s been a long year for us, everybody knows that,” said Harrelson, an Iuka native who has started four years for the Rebels. “To get this one, in this way, makes us feel a lot better about ourselves.”
OLE MISS 8, MISSISSIPPI STATE 7
Ole Miss 120 001 103 8 13 0
Miss. State 210 030 001 7 11 1
WP – Richy Harrelson (1-2). Save – Matthew Duff (5). LP – Scott Polk 3-2. Multiple hits – (OM) Anthony Felston 2, Jason Huisman 3, Keith Lewis 2, Page Echols 2. (MS) Rob Hauswald 2, Adam Piatt 4. 2B – (OM) Jason Huisman 2. (MS) Damian Scioneaux, Adam Piatt 3, David Hayman. 3B – (OM) Todd Mensik. HR – (OM) Keith Lewis. (MS) Brad Freeman, Rob Hauswald. Records: Ole Miss 22-27, 5-20. Mississippi State 34-17, 15-10. Attendance: 3,486. Time: 3:04.
Notes: The second game of the series, sponsored by Cellular South, begins today at 2 p.m. … MSU has won 20 of the past 26 games with Ole Miss. … MSU’s Rob Hauswald is on a 11-game hitting streak. … The win evened the score for Harrelson within a week, who lost Tuesday to MSU in the Mayor’s Trophy Game.