By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – With the Western Division teams bunched tightly and Arkansas having already lost, Brett Huber made sure that didn’t happen to the Rebels.
The Ole Miss closer pitched two innings of hitless, scoreless relief, and the No. 15-ranked Rebels defeated Alabama 5-4 before a crowd of 4,039 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
Huber began the eighth inning with a one-run lead and pitched through an error by second baseman Alex Yarbrough, his second of the game.
He set the Crimson Tide down in order in the ninth, and Yarbrough got the final out with a ground ball.
“Huber’s been terrific, and he handled the pressure,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “Even at the end when we had a couple of errors and weren’t playing clean, we were able to hold things together and make pitches on the mound.”
With two games left on the weekend, the Rebels (36-15, 16-9 SEC) have climbed back into a first-place tie with Arkansas, which lost 3-2 to South Carolina.
Auburn lost 9-3 to Tennessee and is a game back of the Rebels and Razorbacks.
Huber felt the pressure lessen when he got No. 3 hitter Ross Wilson with a swinging strikeout to start the ninth. The scouting report said Wilson would swing at a high fastball, and he chased a 2-2 pitch out of the zone.
“After the first out it got real quiet in their dugout, and it was relaxing to have that happen,” Huber said. “It was pretty big to get Ross to chase.”
Ole Miss jumped on the Tide with two runs in the first and three in the third. Matt Smith had basehits and scored in both innings. Tim Ferguson, batting cleanup in place of the injured Matt Snyder, had an RBI double in first and a two-run home run in the third.
The Rebels finished with 10 hits but after getting six in two innings against Alabama starter Adam Morgan had far less success against the bullpen for the Tide (29-21, 10-15).
Alabama, though, could not break through against Ole Miss starter Drew Pomeranz and didn’t get its first hit until the fifth inning.
But Pomeranz’ night was short as he gave up seven walks and threw 105 pitches in only five innings.
Ole Miss led 5-2 in the seventh when Yarbrough misplayed a chopper by former Ole Miss player David Kindred. His throw pulled Miles Hamblin off the bag at first, and left the door open for former Itawamba AHS star Cody Trotter to drive in two runs with a double in the right field corner.
Yarbrough got the final out of the seventh with a diving stop of a line drive. Had he missed, the game would likely have been tied.
Huber faced seven batters, allowing no hits and no walks for his 10th save.
Pomeranz said his problem was rushing himself and not maintaining balance off his plant foot. He improved to 7-1, his first win since April 9 at Georgia. The strained chest muscle that had bothered him recently was not a factor, he said.
“Obviously Drew was not sharp, but even with all the walks they were only able to get one run and one hit against him,” Bianco said. “You can see why he’s such a high prospect.”