Some late heroics fall short, setting up a deciding Game 3 this afternoon.
By Carl Dubois
Special to the Journal
BATON ROUGE, La. – In a 6-5 defeat Saturday at LSU, the Ole Miss Rebels scored all of their runs after the fifth inning, including four runs in the last two frames.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco could point to several blown opportunities in the loss, which tied the three-game series to set up today’s 1 p.m. decider.
Bianco had more to lament than a called third strike to end the game with the go-ahead run on first base.
LSU starting pitcher Louis Coleman, a senior from Schlater who picked up his second career victory against his home state’s flagship university, struck out the side in the first and fifth innings.
Coleman held Ole Miss to one hit for 5 2/3 innings. The Rebels stranded two runners in the sixth inning, then three in the eighth against LSU freshman Matty Ott.
Ott walked off with his fourth save after Evan Button watched a called third strike with Jeremy Travis on third base and Matt Smith on first.
Scrolling through all nine innings in his mind, Bianco settled on a bottom line.
“Coleman was too good today,” Bianco said.
Ole Miss (16-7, 5-3) can still win a series at LSU (20-6, 5-3) for the first time since 1982 with a victory, and the Rebels said they hoped their late-innings surge Saturday would carry over into today’s game.
“We’ve got a lot of fight left in us,” said Ole Miss left fielder Logan Power, who scored one of his two runs in the three-run ninth inning.
Giving away at-bats
Bianco said the Rebels fought better late than early.
“I don’t know if we made it too easy for them,” he said, “but I thought we gave some at-bats away early.”
Credit Coleman (6-1) for some of that. He struck out a career-high 10 batters and limited Ole Miss to four hits in seven innings.
A right-hander who has reinvented himself multiple times in his LSU career, Coleman frustrates opponents with an across-the-mound front step and an across-the-body delivery that conspire to make it difficult for batters to see the ball well.
“I don’t want to give him too much credit, but it’s almost like you’re facing a right-handed Randy Johnson,” said Power, a right-handed batter.
It’s the right-handers who struggle the most against Coleman.
“You’re looking behind yourself as a hitter, trying to pick up the ball,” Power said. “You’ve got to be ready for his fastball, and if you’re not hitting his fastball, he’ll throw his slider, and it’s really hard to lay off that.”
Some of those pitches were probably Coleman’s expertly disguised sinker.
“My sinker was better than it’s been in a long time,” he said. “I got more ground balls, a lot more swings and misses, and if I fell behind the hitters I could rely on that to get back ahead.”
LSU junior designated hitter Blake Dean, a two-time All-SEC player working to fight his way out of an early-season slump, matched his career highs with four hits and four RBIs.
Not ‘at his best’
Ole Miss starter Phillip Irwin (4-1) gave up five runs on eight hits before leaving with one out in the fifth.
“I didn’t think Phillip was at his best today,” Bianco said, “although I thought he competed hard and gave us an opportunity to win, but you have to credit them. Dean and some other guys got some big hits today.”
Ole Miss cut LSU’s lead to 6-2 with a run in the eighth inning, but reliever Paul Bertuccini struck out Matt Snyder and Smith with two men on base, and Ott ended the inning by inducing Zach Miller to ground out to third base.
“You’ve got to get runs in when you lose the game by one run,” Bianco said.
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