Rebels Take Down Top-Ranked Louisville
Ole Miss took care of business in Sunday's series-deciding ballgame against the No. 1 ranked Louisville Cardinals, and edged them out for a 7-6 victory and a first weekend series win.
The Rebels (2-1) used a four-run seventh inning to take their first lead of the day after trailing for the entire game and relied on a strong relief outing from freshman Wes Burton to hold the lead through the game's final two innings.
Freshman Derek Diamond turned in a quality outing of 5.2 IP to set the tone early and was able to keep the game close until the Rebel bats caught up.
With the victory today, Ole Miss secured a series win over the top-ranked Cardinals after strong showings on Saturday and Sunday. The Rebels now improve to 5-0 under head coach Mike Bianco in home series against teams ranked No. 1 in the country, having taken down top-ranked Florida (2015, 2012), South Carolina (2011), Georgia (2009), and now Louisville at Swayze Field.
The Rebel bats were mostly stifled by the strong right arm of Louisville starter Luke Smith for the batter half of five innings. Smith racked up eight strikeouts across 5.0 innings of work, and only felt the pressure of the Ole Miss lineup in his last inning when junior Anthony Servideo hit a two-run home run to cut the Cardinals lead to just one.
Diamond was very strong throughout 5.2 innings of work, but some defensive miscues made the rookie work a little bit harder in his debut. With runners on second and third and one out in the first, a shallow fly out proved fortuitous for the Cardinals when a runner caught in a rundown between third and home was able to score when catcher Hayden Dunhurst couldn't handle a throw.
Diamond retired his next 11 batters faced, and cruised through his first four innings in a Rebel jersey after the first-inning gaffe. Louisville tacked on to their lead, however, with a pair of home runs in the fifth inning that put the visitors up three until Servideo's homer cut the deficit in the bottom half.
The Rebels wouldn't take their first lead until the seventh inning, but the four-hit, four-run frame would prove the difference maker in Sunday's matchup. Ben Van Cleve came up clutch with a pinch-hit double off the wall, right before a walk issued to Servideo loaded up the bases with nobody out. Justin Bench was hit by pitch to score the inning's first run, while Tyler Keenan and Cael Baker brought a few more home with a pair of RBI singles.
Meanwhile, Burton was spinning a gem against the opposing Cardinal hitters. From entering in the sixth all the way until the end of the eighth, the freshman didn't allow a single base runner to reach. Much like Diamond, Burton relied on the strong defensive lineup behind him for most of the game, and only recorded one strikeout. The Rebel pitching staff as a whole only struck out three Louisville batters today, with one from each Diamond, Burton, and Cioffi.
Clinging to a three-run lead in the ninth, Burton's leadoff walk in the top of the ninth cost him a save opportunity as Bianco elected to turn to Cioffi to get the game's final two outs. The Cardinals made it interesting, scoring two in the inning on a double and an error, but Cioffi was able to strike out Louisville's Davis while Dunhurst threw out Lavey from his knees to end the game on a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out.
Ole Miss will head into their first midweek games with a 2-1 record on the year. The Rebels will face Arkansas State and Alcorn State at home this week on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Tuesday's game versus the Red Wolves will begin at 4 p.m. from Swayze Field.