By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Drew Pomeranz regained his mojo along with a measure of revenge Friday night.
The junior left-hander hurled No. 14 Ole Miss to a 4-2 win over rival Mississippi State in the series opener at Dudy Noble Field.
Pomeranz bounced back from last week’s horrid outing against LSU, when he walked nine and lasted just three innings. Against MSU, Pomeranz worked 6 1/3 strong innings, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out 11 – and walking just one, plus a hit batsman.
He got a no-decision, though. Matt Tracy (3-2) got the win in relief, and Brett Huber earned his sixth save.
Pomeranz was the main reason Ole Miss won, however, and he didn’t let a shaky first inning or a one-hour, five-minute rain delay bother him.
“It was just doing something real major with the ball in my glove that was just throwing my rhythm off just a hair,” Pomeranz said of the first inning, when MSU scored one run on three hits. “And I knew it was something stupid like that. I almost laughed at myself on the mound.
“I was just like, gah, idiot. But I felt good after that.”
Last season against State, Pomeranz allowed six runs in 5 1/3 innings in a 6-5 loss.
His MSU counterpart in that game was the same Friday, senior lefty Tyler Whitney (0-2), who was making just his second SEC start of the year. He acquitted himself well, allowing one earned run on seven hits while striking out eight in seven innings.
It was his longest outing since beating Pomeranz last year.
“That’s the best he’s thrown the baseball since I’ve been here, for sure,” said second-year MSU coach John Cohen.
Said Whitney, who threw 113 pitches, “I’d like to finish a little bit better, but I guess the first seven (innings) were pretty good. … I was starting to wear down a little bit.”
Whitney was chased in the decisive three-run eighth, when Ole Miss (31-13, 12-7 SEC) scored with the aid of three MSU errors, including a booted double-play grounder by shortstop Jonathan Ogden and an errant throw by Whitney.
Ole Miss pulled ahead 2-1 on a bases-loaded walk to Taylor Hashman with nobody out. An infield single by Miles Hamblin and a sac fly by Tim Ferguson made it 4-1.
“When you’re asking a guy to get six outs in an inning, it’s a little bit ridiculous,” Cohen said. “But again, these things are happening to us for some inexplicable reason. I think everbody’s probably trying to do a little bit too much.
“That’s probably my fault.”
MSU (20-21, 5-14) struck first in the first inning when Nick Vickerson scored on Connor Powers’ double-play groundout. Ole Miss answered in the fourth when Hashman hooked a solo home run around the left field foul pole.
Otherwise, Pomeranz and Whitney engaged in a crisp duel. The Rebels’ ace struck out 10 of 11 Bulldogs during one stretch.
“Around the second inning, he kind of found his rhythm and you can just tell – it just kind of hits another gear for him,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
Whitney worked his way out of a jam in the fifth when Ole Miss had runners on second and third and one out. He fanned the next two batters to keep it a 1-1 ballgame.
Pomeranz exited with one out in the seventh when his 118th pitch of the night clocked Ryan Duffy in the head. Matt Tracy entered, gave up a Jaron Shepherd single, and then retired the next two hitters.
Luke Adkins had three of MSU’s eight hits. The Bulldogs were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
With MSU leading 1-0, play was halted in the middle of the third inning when lightning entered the area. Rain soon followed, and play at Dudy Noble Field resumed after the 65-minute stoppage.
Saturday’s second game is scheduled for a 6:36 p.m. start and will be televised by SportSouth. The forecast is calling for a 50-60 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms at game time.
Scheduled starters are Aaron Barrett (6-2, 3.36 ERA) for Ole Miss and Chris Stratton (4-3, 4.97) for MSU.
If Saturday’s game is rained out or postponed, the teams still have to finish the series by Sunday, per SEC rules. Game 3 is scheduled for 1:36 p.m. Sunday.
MSU had to deal with weather issues last week at Alabama, with rain postponing the opener to Saturday and forcing a Sunday doubleheader.
MSU resurfaced Dudy Noble this past offseason and installed a new, better drainage system.
State has had only one rainout this season, when South Alabama was to visit on March 2. It was made up April 14.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
No. 14 Ole Miss 4, Miss. State 2
Ole Miss 000 100 030 – 4 9 1
Miss. State 100 000 010 – 2 8 4
WP: Matt Tracy (3-2). LP: Tyler Whitney (0-2). S: Brett Huber (6).
Multiple hits: (OM) Kevin Mort 3; (MSU) Luke Adkins 3, Cody Freeman, Jaron Shepherd. 2B: (MSU) Freeman; HR: (OM) Taylor Hashman. DP: Ole Miss 1. LOB: Ole Miss 11, MSU 9. T: 3:22. A: 2,479.
Records: Ole Miss 31-13 (12-7 SEC), MSU 20-21 (5-14).