Special to the Journal
LEXINGTON, Ky. – A six-run third inning was more than enough to buoy another strong Chris Ellis start, and No. 16 Ole Miss topped No. 17 Kentucky 12-4 to open the series Friday.
Ellis gave up five hits and two earned runs over 7 innings and has now given up three earned runs or fewer in 10 of his 11 starts this season. He struck out four and walked three, hitting one batter over 110 pitches.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said it isn’t always easy pitching with such a big lead, especially against a prolific offense like Kentucky’s.
“You’re supposed to go in there and attack the strike zone (with a big lead), and when you’re facing an offense like that, it’s tough,” Bianco said. “But I thought he did a great job. It seemed like every time they got a baserunner on, he was able to bear down and keep innings from extending.”
Ole Miss took an early lead when Sikes Orvis led off the top of the second with his team-leading 10th home run of the season, but A.J. Reed made quick work to retire the next three Rebel batters.
Then Ole Miss poured it on.
Left fielder Braxton Lee reached on an error by shortstop Matt Reida, and Auston Bousfield doubled him in. Catcher Will Allen followed with an RBI single.
With two out and Reed facing the bottom of the Rebels’ lineup, shortstop Errol Robinson plated one run on a single, second baseman Preston Overbey’s fifth double of the year scored two, and right fielder Will Jamison singled the other way to score Overbey.
Lee ended the inning with a strikeout, but he was the last batter Reed would face. The Wildcats’ star lefty finished gave up eight hits and seven runs, two earned, in 3 innings and 71 pitches thrown. It was Reed’s first start this season in which he didn’t last at least five innings and throw at least 99 pitches.
Ellis was cruising easily through one of the most potent offenses in the country until the third time through the lineup. Reed, the NCAA leader in home runs and slugging percentage, hit his 17th homer of the season in the sixth. He finished 1 for 4.
“I thought it was a good pitch. I threw it, and he hit it. I didn’t even want to look at it. Just give me the ball back. It was a change-up, low and away. I don’t know if he knew it was coming or what, but he’s a great hitter.”
Allen was 3 for 5, leading five Rebels with multiple hits. But the star Friday was Ellis.
“I thought I had good command of all my pitches, especially my fastball,” he said. “It starts with fastball command. I certainly want to pitch off my fastball. It’s important to see what’s going for strikes in the first couple of innings, that way I know what’s coming. Then the defense picked me up, and that was huge.”