By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Kevin Mort found LSU’s ninth-inning defense, designed specifically on his behalf, to be truly unique.
“It was something I’d never seen in hardball,” the Ole Miss shortstop said.
The five-infielder, two-outfielder look might have worked, but Mort – who hit ground balls in three of his four previous bats – lofted a fly ball over the head of a shallow left fielder for a walk-off single that gave the No. 19-ranked Rebels a 7-6 comeback win Sunday and an SEC sweep of No. 8 LSU.
A lively Swayze Field crowd watched Ole Miss (28-13, 11-7 SEC) win its fifth-straight game and its fourth league series of the season to climb into a second-place tie in the Western Division with LSU (32-9, 11-7). The Rebels last swept LSU in 2006 in Oxford.
Ole Miss rallied from deficits of 3-0 and 6-4, the second as late as the eighth inning. It was then that Matt Snyder and Alex Yarbrough hit solo home runs to tie the game, and the Rebels opened the ninth against LSU reliever Austin Ross with back-to-back singles by Taylor Hightower and Miles Hamblin.
Facing the top of the order, Ross intentionally walked Tim Ferguson to bring Mort to the plate.
“I figured with the bases loaded I’d be able to swing away, and I was looking for a pitch I could handle,” Mort said.
LSU coach Paul Maineri did not have his closer, SEC saves leader Matty Ott, available. Ott pitched 32⁄3 innings Saturday and gave up the winning run when Ole Miss won the nightcap 9-8 in 11 innings.
“We couldn’t get the big hit we needed to pull away, and against a good team like Ole Miss that’s what you have to do,” Maineri said.
Yarbrough’s home run was the first of the season for the freshman second baseman. Snyder hit his eighth, tying for the team lead, his third of the weekend.
In the celebration that followed when Hightower touched home with the decisive run, Snyder re-injured his right shoulder. He was quickly examined by the medical staff.
Snyder said there was not much pain in the shoulder, and he was adamant that he won’t miss any more playing time. He’s missed 10 games this season for a variety of injuries. The shoulder injury goes back to an early March series at Tulane.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, the former LSU catcher, was less definitive on Snyder’s immediate availability.
“I don’t know,” he said.
Bianco was much more clear on the work he got from his bullpen that allowed LSU just one run in the final 52⁄3 innings.
The Tigers put up three in the second, and the Rebels matched that with three in the bottom half of the inning.
While LSU built the lead back to 6-3 by the fifth inning, it took Ole Miss longer to get to Tigers starter Chris Matulis, whose curve balls dropped into the strike zone more often than not.
Trent Rothlin relieved Ole Miss starter David Goforth with one on and one out in the fourth and got out of the inning with a double-play ball. Rothlin went 32⁄3 innings and gave up his lone run in the fifth when Leon Landry led off with a triple and scored on a two-out wild pitch.
Brett Huber pitched two innings of scoreless, one-hit ball and earned the win, his first. Huber got the save in the Rebels’ 11-9 win in Game 1 on Saturday.
“Trent was tremendous, and Huber was very dominant at the end,” Bianco said.
That pitching was supported by offense throughout the weekend. The Rebels scored just 10 runs in losing twice at South Carolina last weekend but scored 27 against LSU.
A lot of that credit goes to Snyder, Bianco said, and he hopes to have him this week.
“It’s like night and day when he’s in there. He’s a legitimate four-hole guy. We talk about a ‘fear factor’ with guys, and with him and (Matt) Smith, even though Smith didn’t have a great weekend, it makes a difference.”