By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – When it needed a repeat of Friday night’s effort, Ole Miss got a repeat of Thursday instead.
A day after collecting 13 hits and tying their SEC series with Kentucky, the Rebels’ bullpen faltered late as it did in a Game 1 loss.
The Wildcats scored three runs over the seventh and eighth innings to rally past Ole Miss Saturday and win 5-4 before a Swayze Field announced crowd of 9,032.
The loss drops No. 18 Ole Miss to 31-14 overall, 11-10 in the SEC in advance of next weekend’s trip to Auburn.
“When you look back at two one-run losses we had leads in the seventh and eighth in both games and couldn’t hold on,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “We’ve been good out of the bullpen all year long, but it didn’t (happen) today.”
Aaron Greenwood gave up a one-run lead in the eighth inning on Thursday. Saturday he relieved Sam Smith in the fifth, and the Rebels went ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the inning on a two-run home run by Austin Anderson. Greenwood was perfect in the sixth but gave up a leadoff home run to Kentucky DH Greg Fettes in the seventh. He recorded two outs before running into trouble, and Matt Denny came on to get the final out of the inning.
Though Anderson’s home run provided brief excitement Ole Miss was unable to find consistency against Kentucky left-hander Corey Littrell, who settled down after a rocky first to scatter seven hits over eight innings.
“He located his fastball, and he had a cutter and change-up that kept righties off balance,” Anderson said.
That’s why a two-run deficit looked so daunting when the Rebels’ bullpen further faltered in the eighth.
Tanner Bailey entered with two on and no outs and threw wild to third base after fielding a sacrifice bunt. That allowed the go-ahead run to score, and Kentucky (26-17, 9-12) tacked on another, which proved pretty big in the ninth.
Sikes Orvis drove in a run with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly, but Will Allen struck out looking to end the game with the tying run at second base.
Bianco said emotion may have gotten the better of Bailey’s decision-making.
“In that situation there’s so much emotion. You want to get the lead out, but I thought the bunt was good enough that we should just, with a base open, gotten the out and tried to pitch hard to the next two guys.”