By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – A lot of numbers go into being No. 1.
For Florida on Saturday, one of those was the number of quality arms in the bullpen. The No. 1-ranked Gators kept Ole Miss from stretching its lead and finally struck themselves with a six-run eighth inning to win 9-4 before 10,064 fans at Swayze Field.
No. 16 Ole Miss won 3-0 on Friday, and the decisive third game is at 12:30 p.m., today.
The Rebels got another quality start from R.J. Hively, but Florida (24-3, 6-2 SEC) had a field day against the bullpen, sending seven men to the plate against three different Ole Miss relievers before an out was recorded in the top of the eighth.
“You’ve got to play nine. We played well through seven, but the truth of the matter is we left a lot of opportunities out there,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
The big eighth-inning hit for Florida – but far from the only – was a three-run home run from Vickash Ramjit in a 3-3 game. It was the fourth-straight hit against Ole Miss reliever Dylan Chavez. The third hit was an RBI single from Casey Turgeon to tie the game at 3.
Chavez pitched well against the heart of the order when he faced the minimum in the seventh to preserve the one-run lead.
Hively went into the game having allowed only one earned run in his last 27 innings. He went 51/3 innings, scattering eight hits with two earned runs, two walks and eight strikeouts. He left with a 3-2 lead on the strength of a two-run home run from Gainesville, Fla., native Will Allen in the fourth and an RBI single from Alex Yarbrough in the fifth.
Playing the odds
Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan was able to roll out quality pitchers one after another and play the percentages, such as the righty Greg Larson to induce a ground ball from the right-handed hitting Andrew Mistone to strand two runners in the fifth and later the righty Johnny Magliozzi to get the right-handed Allen to leave the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh – before the ill-fated top half of the eighth.
Florida closer Austin Maddox gave up two hits but stranded three in the bottom of the eighth.
“The last two years we’ve played them it’s been amazing the number of arms in their bullpen,” said Ole Miss first baseman Matt Snyder, who had a solo home run in the ninth, his second of the series. “Everybody talks about getting to the bullpen, but with those guys, they’re just as good as the guy before them.”
Florida used six pitchers in the game, their combined effort absorbing nine hits from the Rebels.
Offensively, the Gators amassed 17 hits, the last nine in 32/3 innings against the bullpen.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said O’Sullivan’s management of his pitchers indicated the importance of each game in the SEC.
“They went for it today,” Bianco said. “They went to (Steven) Rodriguez early and to Maddox with a five-run lead in the eighth. That shows you the importance of the games. All the games mean so much.”