LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Holding a 3-2 lead with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Kentucky committed a fielding error, allowing two unearned runs to score, lifting No. 15 Ole Miss to a 4-3, come-from-behind win over the Wildcats, in front of 7,977 fans at Swayze Field.
Kentucky (18-10, 4-6 Southeastern Conference) held a lead for the entire game, getting three runs in the third inning and a career pitching performance from standout freshman Alex Meyer. Meyer, a 6-foot-8 right-hander, tossed the best game of his career, going a career-high 6.1 innings, giving up two runs on five hits and striking out a career-best 10. In his last three starts the freshman had walked 16 batters, but only gave out one base on balls Friday. On the season, Meyer – rated as the second-best freshman in college baseball by Baseball America in the preseason – holds a 4.04 ERA, with 37 strikeouts in 36.2 innings of work.
UK will hit the field again Saturday to play game two against the Rebels with first pitch slated for 5 pm ET. All the action can be heard on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Kentucky will send senior lefty Chris Rusin (4-1) to the mound. On the season, Rusin has a 3.21 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 42 innings of work. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.
The decisive eighth inning turned with one out and runners on first and second and with UK leading 3-2. UK freshman third baseman Andy Burns, making the start in place of an injured senior Chris McClendon, took a chopper off the bat of Matt Smith and with Logan Power running from second to third, attempted to get Taylor Hasham at second. Burns, who may have had safe outs at first or third on the play, threw the ball into right field, allowing Hasham to reach safely and Power to score the game-tying run. With Hasham on second, Ole Miss second baseman Evan Button drilled an RBI single through the infield, allowing the game-winning run to plate.
Ole Miss (20-8, 6-4 SEC) got eight good innings from Irwin, who was scheduled to start Saturday but was moved up due to an illness to the Friday starter. Irwin went a career-high eight innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and striking out seven. The Rebels turned to closer Jake Morgan in the ninth inning, who was flawless for Ole Miss, pitching a perfect ninth frame giving up no hits, no runs and striking out all three Kentucky batters, for his second save of the year.
“I thought both starting pitchers were tremendous tonight,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “(Alex) Meyer was outstanding. I am certain that was his best outing of the year. He’s prone to walks but he walked only one tonight. He had a good breaking ball and just dominated us.”
The Wildcats got a great hitting night from sophomore Bryan Rose, who was 3-for-3 in the game with three singles. UK was also led offensively by junior Gunner Glad who was 1-for-3 with two RBI. Glad had the key hit in the three run third inning that the Wildcats had. With two outs and runners at second and third, the Tulsa, Okla., native, sent a rope up the middle plating two runs. Six of the last seven RBI by Glad have come with two outs. The Kentucky first baseman extended his hitting streak to six on the season, a current team high.
The Rebels also got good offensive production in the game, getting multi hit nights from the 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year, Jordan Henry and Button. Henry was 3-for-4 on the night with one RBI and Button was 2-for-4 with an RBI. The other Ole Miss RBI came from a solo homer by Zach Miller, his second of the year.
Kentucky got on the board in the first inning posting three runs on four hits. The inning started when Rose hit a single up the middle, advancing to second on a bunt single by center fielder Keenan Wiley. With no outs and two on, second baseman Chris Bisson bunted right in front of the plate allowing the catcher to turn to third for the first out. Kentucky got its run when Burns roped a double down the left field line that went under the bullpen fence for a ground-rule, RBI double, thus hampering Kentucky from scoring two runs. It wouldn’t matter as after a Chris Wade strikeout, UK got two more runs on a Glad single up the middle, easily scoring Bisson and Burns. Irwin got out of the inning by striking out UK’s catcher, Marcus Nidiffer.
Ole Miss finally got on the board in fifth inning, when Henry reached on a two-out, RBI infield single on a grounder back to Meyer, with Henry beating the throw to first. The inning started when Meyer walked Matt Smith, and after getting a strikeout of Miller, Button sent a high chopper off the plate and down the right field over the head of Glad, putting runners on second and third with one out. Meyer then got a strikeout of Kevin Mort for the second out and almost got out of the inning when Henry grounded back to Meyer but the throw was low and a bit late, allowing Henry to reach and Smith to score. The inning ended when backstop Kyle Henson lined out down the left field line.
The Rebels cut the lead to one in the seventh inning getting a home run to right center field by Zach Miller. On the first pitch that the Rebel third baseman saw, he sent a high towering shot over just over the 365-foot sign into right center. After Meyer then got a strikeout for the first out of the inning, UK Head Coach Gary Henderson went to the Kentucky bullpen and brought in junior Tyler Henry. On the first pitch of the game for Henry, the UK righty got Mort to fly out to right field to Rose. Henry got the third out of the inning when Hendon lined out to left field.
Ole Miss took the lead in the eighth inning when Burns made a throwing error that allowed a runner to score from second base. Logan Power started off the inning on a single up the middle chasing Henry from the game. Logan Darnell came in for the Wildcats and got a great defensive play from Wiley in center field, who made a diving back-handed grab for the first out. After a walk to Dave Phillips put runners on first and second, Smith grounded a ball to third, gathered in by Burns, who threw to second to try to start a double play, but his throw was wide and into right field, allowing Power to score and tie the game at three. Darnell then was removed from the game for Braden Kapteyn who got the first batter to strike out, but gave up a single through the right side to give the Rebels the lead.