By Ole Miss Media Relations
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Rebels took an early lead on the Tigers, but three errors proved to be too much to overcome down the stretch as No. 14 Ole Miss (23-11) fell to Memphis (15-18) by a score of 6-5 on Tuesday night at AutoZone Park.
Kevin Mort led the Rebels at the plate with a 2-for-4 performance and two runs scored, while Matt Smith extended his hitting streak to 18 games to tie for fifth longest in school history with T.Y. Gunter from the 1974 season.
Ole Miss pushed three runs across in the first two innings, but was unable to convert more scoring opportunities with the bases loaded three times in the first three innings.
Matt Crouse (2-1) suffered the loss as he worked 4.1 innings with four runs – two earned – on six hits with two strikeouts.
Memphis reliever Marc Ashley (1-1) picked up the win as the Tigers rallied in the fifth to take a lead that would never be relinquished.
“We had too many opportunities in the first three innings to only come away with three runs,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “If you’re not going to convert with runners in scoring position, you have to be very clean in the field and pitch well. Memphis got the big hit when they needed it tonight despite leaving some opportunities on the field as well.”
The Rebels stranded 12 base runners on the night while Memphis stranded nine.
Ole Miss struck first when Alex Yarbrough came up with a bases loaded single to right field that scored Kevin Mort from third. The Rebels were unable to get another run across in the inning as Matt Smith was thrown out at home on the play and Mike Snyder flew out to left in the next at bat to end the inning with Ole Miss up 1-0.
Memphis responded in the home half of the inning when Tyler Huelsing came up with a single to center to score Drew Martinez with no outs. A sac bunt from Jacob Wilson moved runners to second and third before Crouse got a strikeout and a groundout to strand the two runners and keep the game knotted at one.
David Phillips put the Rebels back on top in the second, hitting a solo home run with two outs on the board. Ole Miss then loaded the bases before Zach Miller was hit by a pitch to push Tim Ferguson home and put the Rebels up 3-1.
Heath Hatfield cut the lead to one in the fourth inning when the designated hitter homered to left field.
Memphis then took the lead in the fifth, taking advantage of a catcher’s interference call and using aggressive base running to push two runs across the plate. With one out and men at second and third, Wilson singled up the middle to drive Martinez home and move Huelsing to third. Huelsing then scored on a foul fly to right field by Trey Wiedman to put Memphis up 4-3.
Ole Miss threatened in the top of the seventh, putting runners at second and third with two outs, but couldn’t drive them home as Memphis maintained the lead.
The Tigers continued to build on the lead in the bottom half of the inning, pushing two more runs across the plate. Back-to-back errors with one out put two men on before a double steal moved them both into scoring position. A single to center pushed both men home and Memphis took a 6-3 lead.
The Rebels cut back into the lead, pushing two runs across in the eighth to trim the Memphis lead to one at 6-5. Phillips, who walked to open the inning, scored on a sac fly from Matt Smith before Kevin Mort scored on a wild pitch a few batters later.
Ole Miss could get no closer, however, as the Tigers closed out the one-run victory in the ninth.
The Rebels return to action this weekend with a three-game series at South Carolina, beginning at 7 p.m. CDT on Friday in a game televised by SportSouth.