By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Phillip Irwin, moving up a day in the rotation because of a stomach virus for regular Game 1 starter Drew Pomeranz, shook off a tough third inning Friday night, and No. 15 Ole Miss rallied past Kentucky 4-3 before an announced crowd of 7,977 at Swayze Field.
Evan Button’s RBI single in a two-run eighth gave Ole Miss (20-8, 6-4 SEC) its fourth come-from-behind win of the week. Game 2 in the SEC series is at 4 p.m. today.
Irwin, a junior right-hander, didn’t know he’d be pitching until a little more than an hour before game time. He responded by scattering seven hits with seven strikeouts and no walks in eight innings.
“I wanted to go back for the ninth, but I knew when Jake went in we’d be fine. He’s been outstanding all year,” Irwin said.
Jake Morgan was outstanding again with strikeouts against each of the three batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth. Morgan picked up his second save and has 35 strikeouts in 191/3 innings this season.
With such short notice Irwin was unable to go through his normal starting-day rituals of relaxation, a movie and music on the Ipod.
“But once you saw him in the first inning you knew he was going to be OK,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
It was in the third inning when that confidence waned. Irwin left some curve balls up in the strike zone, and Kentucky (18-10, 4-6) got RBI hits from Andy Burns and Gunner Glad.
Ole Miss, meanwhile, failed to scratch in its first four innings against Alex Meyer, a right-handed freshman. Meyer had his longest outing of the year, going 61/3. He had struggled with control previously but walked just one batter and struck out a career-high 10.
Ole Miss got on the board in the fifth when Jordan Henry, who had three hits, singled home Matt Smith with two outs.
The Rebels made it 3-2 on Zach Miller’s solo home run in the seventh.
Logan Power led off the eighth with a single against Kentucky reliever Tyler Henry. Two batters later pinch-hitter Taylor Hashman walked against Logan Darnell, third pitcher.
With runners at first and second, Smith’s ground ball was field by Burns at third base, whose poor throw to second allowed Power to score and tie the game.
Button singled on the first pitch from Braden Kapteyn, and Hashman scored the decisive run.
“Meyer really clamped down on us, but Phillip matched him pitch-for-pitch except for the third inning,” Bianco said. “We didn’t get off many good swings in the middle innings, but in the later innings we started to catch up with him.”
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