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Rebels’ bullpen blows 2-0 lead in loss to Memphis

Tyler Jackson/The Daily Mississippian


MEMPHIS, Tenn. – It took Memphis seven innings to get their first hit of the game, but junior left-hander Michael Wills threw nearly a complete game to lead the Tigers (18-23) to a 4-2 win over No. 18 Ole Miss (27-14) at AutoZone Park in Memphis on Tuesday night.

“It’s a tough one,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “You’ve got to credit Memphis. I thought they did a great job. You’ve got to play all nine. They played a lot better than we did in the last couple of innings. They were able to bunch some hits together and some obviously very clutch hits.

“We’ve got to figure out how to finish it. It’s disappointing to be that close. It’s too many chances to extend the lead, and you don’t. Then, you put yourself in that situation, and you need a hero. They had a lot of heroes there at the end. They made great pitches and great at-bats, and we just didn’t do that.”

Ole Miss had a chance to get off to an early start with back-to-back, one-out singles from junior left fielder Tanner Mathis and junior second baseman Alex Yarbrough, but they couldn’t push a run across. Yarbrough’s single extended his hitting streak to 20 games, the sixth longest in school history.

Junior right-hander Tanner Bailey was lifted from the game after throwing 4.0 innings of perfect baseball due to a predetermined start. He also struck out four batters in his outing.

“I thought he was terrific,” Bianco said of Bailey’s outing. “He did what we thought he would do and what he’s done all year. He filled up the strike zone with his fastball and slider and even some changeups. He just keeps the hitters off balance and does a great job.”

Bailey said he felt great out on the mound.

“It felt great just to go out there, make pitches, get outs and go through a couple of innings for these guys,” Bailey said. “It was coach Bianco’s decision (to take him out of the game), and I respect it. I was just trying to go out and go as long as I could for him.”

Bianco said Bailey’s outing was cut short, so he can be ready to go for this weekend’s series at Mississippi State.

“He was at about 60 pitches, and he had never thrown that many,” Bianco said. “If we’re going to have a chance to have him on the weekend, that was enough.”

In the fifth, the Rebels got on the board with a two-out, bases loaded infield single by Mathis. A second runner crossed the plate on the same play on a throwing error by the Memphis’ senior third baseman Jacob Wilson.

The Tigers finally got their first runner aboard in the fifth on a throwing error by senior left-hander Jon Andy Scott, and that was a sign of things to come. Scott went 1.2 innings giving up nothing. In the seventh, Memphis got their first hit of the game off of sophomore right-hander Aaron Greenwood, but the Tigers weren’t done there.

Memphis strung three singles together, two off Greenwood and one of junior left-hander Dylan Chavez to load the bases with no outs. Then, Chavez struck out two batters in a row before giving up a full-count single to senior first baseman T.J. Rich that tied the game at 2-2.

In the eighth, Wilson made up for his earlier error with a two-run home run to deep left field off of Chavez to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead that they would not relinquish.

Freshman right-hander Chris Ellis came in to pitch the last 0.2 innings for the Rebels.

Ole Miss threatened in the ninth with back-to-back base hits from sophomore right fielder Preston Overbey and senior shortstop Blake Newalu to put runners on the corners with one out. Willis was lifted from the game after throwing 8.1 innings as he allowed two runs, one earned, on nine hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

Then, freshman center fielder Auston Bousfield hit a ball just foul down the right-field line before hitting into a game-ending double play on a great play by sophomore shortstop Ethan Gross on a ball hit up the middle.