TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Aaron Barrett was flirting with a no-hitter on Saturday, but it was a batch of walks that forced him to leave the dance early.
Alabama managed only one clean hit against the Ole Miss starter but did enough damage against the Rebels’ bullpen – especially with a dominant pitching performance in its own right – to drop the Rebels 5-1 and tie the SEC series at one win each.
The series isn’t the only tie Alabama created on a warm, breezy Saturday before 4,723 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The loss for No. 15 Ole Miss, combined with a loss by Arkansas and a win by Auburn, leaves the Rebels, Razorbacks and Tigers knotted at the top in the SEC West with 16-10 conference marks.
Alabama right-hander Jimmy Nelson out-pitched Ole Miss with a complete-game four-hitter, scattering four singles by four different players. He walked only two and struck out 11.
Barrett didn’t give up a hit until the seventh but walked eight and hit a batter and had thrown 113 pitches when he gave way to Matt Tracy down 1-0 in the seventh.
“It was a tremendous effort by Barrett. There were too many balls, too many walks, but he hung in there with the slider in the strike zone and got out of some jams,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “He gave us a chance to win.”
But Nelson took it away, throwing fastballs and sliders in the zone and keeping the Rebels off base.
Ole Miss (36-16, 16-10 SEC) again played without cleanup hitter Matt Snyder, his nine home runs and 31 RBIs.
Snyder’s injured shoulder caused him to miss the last two games of last weekend’s Arkansas series, and he has now missed five straight games. His strength is evaluated daily.
Ole Miss scored just seven runs against Arkansas and has now scored just six runs through two games against Alabama.
The Rebels had gone 13 straight scoreless innings Saturday when Matt Smith’s RBI single in the eighth made it a 1-1 game.
Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard credited his assistant coach, former Ole Miss assistant Kyle Bunn, with a scouting report that indicated the slider would be a good pitch to throw to the Rebels.
“We probably have a little bit of an advantage having Kyle Bunn with us as the pitching coach. He knows some of these guys and some of the tendencies that Mike has. He’s called a couple of good games back-to-back.”
Nelson didn’t surrender a walk until the top of the seventh, the first time the Rebels had two baserunners in the same inning.
Alex Yarbrough drew the pass just after Zach Miller singled between center and right fields. They moved up a base on a check swing by Kevin Mort that had the same effect as a bunt, it just had the effect with two outs. Miller and Yarbrough were stranded when Taylor Hightower struck out swinging.
The Tide got to Barrett in the bottom of the inning. He walked the leadoff batter to bring up the top of the order, and Taylor Dugas, the next man up, reached on a bunt to the right side of the infield.
Barrett rallied with a strikeout and fly out, but cleanup hitter Clay Jones doubled to the left field corner for a 1-0 lead.
That finished Barrett, and Matt Tracy got the final out on a fly ball.
The Rebels tied the game in the eighth, Smith’s single scoring Taylor Hashman who had walked, to make it 1-1.
Tracy gave up a single and two walks to load the bases in the bottom of the eighth. Two-hole hitter Josh Rutledge was batting with two outs when a passed ball by Hightower, his second of the inning, allowed the go-ahead run to score. Everybody moved up, and Rutledge singled in two more runs.
“Their guy was too good,” Bianco said. “He threw the ball 90 to 93 all day and was able to throw a very good breaking ball into the strike zone. He had very good command, and it was difficult for us to muster much of anything offensively.”
Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal