By Randy Rosetta/Special to the Journal
BATON ROUGE, La. – Eighteen innings of scratching and clawing offensively against LSU didn’t do the Rebels much good in the first two games of the final series of the regular season.
Smacking the ball out of the ballpark made things a lot easier on Saturday.
The Rebels bashed a season-best four home runs leading to 10 runs, and that power surge was the catalyst in a come-from-behind 11-9 victory at Alex Box Stadium over a makeshift Tigers’ lineup.
Ole Miss (36-20, 15-15 SEC) got a pair of homers and five RBIs from Preston Overbey, a three-run blast from Austin Anderson and Will Allen’s two-run bomb that provided the tying and winning runs.
The win allowed the Rebels to avoid a sweep, and moved them to the No. 6 seed at this week’s SEC Tournament. Ole Miss will take on Kentucky (30-24) at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the opening game of the six-day tournament.
“This was a big win for so many reasons,” Rebels coach Mike Bianco said. “The biggest might be that it was a game in which we had to fight back and keep swinging after falling behind early. I’m proud of the guys for continuing to battle and fight (Saturday) after a tough loss (Friday) night.
The only LSU regulars who started were seniors Mason Katz and Raph Rhymes. They played defense and batted in the first inning, went out to their spots in the top of the second and then exited to a standing ovation. After that, it was all backups for the No. 2-ranked Tigers (48-8, 23-7).
Despite a strange mix of reserves in the batting order, though, the Tigers rattled Wahl and stuck him with his worst outing of the season.
He allowed five hits and five runs – more than he had given up all season – and never got out of the third inning. When the LSU rally ended, the Tigers were ahead 7-2.
Following the Tigers’ eruption, Anderson smoked a ball into the right-field seats after LSU starter Ryan Eades walked Tanner Mathis and Auston Bousfield with one out. That closed the gap to 7-5 and sapped most of the momentum the Tigers had rolled up.
After LSU got two runs back for a 9-5 lead, Ole Miss exploded again in the seventh inning.
With two on after Andrew Mistone singled and Sikes Orvis walked with one out, Overbey fell behind Tiger reliever Kevin Berry 0-and-2 and then unloaded a high homer to left field close the gap to 9-8.
Will Jamison whacked a double to right field to bring up Will Allen, who also fell behind 0-and-2. But the next pitch was right in Allen’s wheelhouse, and the Rebels’ DH powered it into the left-field seats to put his team in front.
Brett Huber came on in the seventh inning and logged 2.2 scoreless innings with only one hit allowed for his 12th save.
“It’s big for us as we move forward and look to the SEC Tournament next week and then the start of the NCAA Tournament the following week,” Bianco said.