Ole Miss All-American pitcher Scott Bittle retired the first 14 Kentucky hitters he faced, hurling a complete-game nine inning shutout, striking out a career-high 13 without issuing a walk, allowing only three hits, as the 15th-ranked Rebels posted a series sweep over UK with an 8-0 win on Sunday afternoon in front of 5,715 fans at Swayze Field.
The sweep over Kentucky is just the second Southeastern Conference series sweep of the Wildcats in the last four seasons, dating back to 2005. With a dominating 10-3 win over UK Saturday, Ole Miss wrapped up its first series win over UK since the 2005 season, as the Wildcats had won three consecutive series meetings between the two schools. The shutout is the first blanking of UK on the year and the first since a 2-0 shutout loss at Auburn in 2008. UK has not recorded an RBI in a span of 24 innings, dating back to the third innings of UK’s Friday night game against Ole Miss.
Bittle, one of the top closers in the NCAA a year ago and a second-round draft pick of the New York Yankees in the 2008 MLB Draft, was dominating from the first frame, carrying a perfect game into the fifth inning, before freshman Andy Burns roped a single into left field. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander retired the first 14 UK hitters he faced, throwing first-pitch strikes to 17 of 30 batters. Bittle, who functioned as the closer early in the year, made his first start of the season last week against No. 2 LSU, going seven innings with one hit allowed and 10 strikeouts, against arguably the top hitting lineup in the nation.
The Ole Miss offense was sparked by homers from Taylor Hashman, Kyle Henson and Matt Synder. Hashman’s bomb was the first hit of the game for either side, a laser shot over the right field wall. On the day, Hashman was 2-for-3, with two RBI and a run scored. Henson’s two-run shot came in the fifth inning when leadoff hitter Jordan Henry got on with an infield single, just before the long ball. The wind-guided homer was the second of the season for the Rebel catcher. Snyder’s round tripper was a laser shot well over the right field wall and into the Kentucky bullpen, giving the Rebels a 7-0 lead. It was Synder’s sixth homer of the season and 29th of the season for the Rebels.
Senior James Paxton got the start for the Wildcats, giving up five runs on eight hits in five innings of work. Paxton struck out six batters on the day and improved his total to 55 strikeouts on the season, good for second on the team. Paxton pitched well for the Wildcats and other than the third and fifth innings was untouchable. The lefty was unfortunate in the fifth when a high pop up got a huge boast from the wind and just got over the center field wall.
Kentucky (18-12, 4-8 SEC) will return to action on Tuesday when the travel to Bowling Green, Ky., to play in-state school Western Kentucky. Fans can catch all the action on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with the Voice of Kentucky Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. The game can be heard on WLAP 630-AM in Lexington, with first pitch slated for 7 pm ET.
The first hit of the game gave the Rebels an early lead as Henson popped a homer to right center field, starting a three-run rally for the Rebels. Paxton gave up back-to-back single to Matt Smith and Zach Miller, with Smith advancing to third on the single and Miller getting into scoring position at second when the throw from Keenan Wiley went to third base. With runners at second and third and one out, Tim Ferguson struck out. Kevin Mort then came up and got the job done with a sharp single up the middle, scoring two and giving the Rebels a three-run lead.
The Rebels added two insurance runs in the fifth inning when Hashman hit a wind guided two-run homer to center field. The inning started with a one out infield single by Jordan Henry on a sharply hit ball back to Bisson. The next batter was Hashman who sent a high pop fly to center field that got caught up in the heavy breeze blowing out to center and just carried over the center field wall.
Ole Miss (22-8, 8-4 SEC) scored another run in the sixth inning, this one off of Braden Kapteyn. The inning started when Brett Bashman single to right field, later advancing to second on a wild pitch. After Miller flied out to right for the second out, Bashman advanced to third on a ball four wild pitch to pinch hitter Evan Button. Mort then scored Bashman when he single to the left side off the glove of third baseman Chris McClendon.
Ole Miss grabbed its seventh run and third homer of the day when Snyder sent a rocket into the right field bullpen. After Kapteyn threw a pitch well off the plate and to the backstop and McClendon came to the mound to try to settle the freshman, Snyder answered with his laser shot to right. The inning continued when Kapteyn walked a batter, who advanced to second on a passed ball and later came home to score on a single up the middle by Smith.