Ole Miss grabs Mayor's Trophy

By By Kyle Veazey / staff writer
April 4, 2002
JACKSON Ole Miss jumped out to 4-0 second inning lead and never looked back Wednesday night, adding two runs in the fourth and seventh inning to beat Mississippi State 8-4 in the Mayor's Trophy game before a lively crowd of 5,911 at Smith-Wills Stadium.
The victory was the seventh in a row for the surging Rebels (22-7, 5-4 SEC) and the first in the Mayors Trophy series for second-year skipper Mike Bianco.
Trailing 6-1 midway through the fourth inning, the Bulldogs were able to cut it to 6-4 in the bottom of the frame off a Michael Brown single, which scored Casey Long, and a Matthew Maniscalco double which plated Brown and Brent Lewis.
After scoreless fifth and sixth innings, Josh Christian gave the Rebels some insurance in the seventh, blasting a home run to left field which also scored Chad Sterbens and put the Rebels ahead 8-4.
Reliever T.J. Beam put the nail in the coffin for Ole Miss down the stretch, striking out six Bulldogs in the final three innings and only allowing a minor threat in the bottom of the ninth. Two State players reached base in the inning before Beam coaxed Steve Gendron to fly out to end the game and earn the save.
While the Rebels and Bulldogs are conference foes, Wednesday night's game doesn't actually count in the conference standings. This was the 23rd edition of the game, which has been played annually in Jackson since 1980. Mississippi State leads the series 13-10.
The Bulldogs (15-10-1, 4-4) will be back in action this weekend with a series against Georgia, which begins with a 6:36 scheduled first pitch Friday night. Bulldog skipper Ron Polk, who left Starkville after the 1997 season, coached at Georgia in 2000 and 2001 and returned to Mississippi State this season, will have his first meeting against his old team this weekend.
The Rebels host Vanderbilt in a three-game set, with Friday's first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.
Bianco, who lost an embarrassing 15-6 Mayors Trophy game decision last year, was delighted to hoist the trophy for the first time after receiving it from Polk in a brief postgame exchange.
Ole Miss, which entered the game with the SEC's worst fielding percentage at .948, didn't make an error Wednesday night. The Rebels had a streak of 20 consecutive games with at least one error until an errorless game Sunday at Kentucky.
Mike Gray (2-0) was credited with the win, pitching two and two-thirds of an inning, yielding a run, striking out two and walking five. Jacob Blakeney (0-2) worked three innings in the losing effort for the Bulldogs.
The Rebels were able to jump out to their early lead courtesy of timely hitting in the second. Drew Rogers started the rally with a single, and then scored on a Christian double. Matt Tolbert and Charlie Waite bunted safely, with Christian scoring on Tolbert's effort. Hutchinson drove home Tolbert on a sacrifice fly, and Seth Smith drove in Waite on a double to give the Rebels a 4-0 lead.
Maniscalco scored in the bottom of the third for Mississippi State off a Jason Burkley single, cutting the Ole Miss lead to 4-1.
The Rebels tacked on two more in the fourth. Clint Farrar doubled and Hutchinson singled, with Farrar scoring on an error and Hutchinson reaching home courtesy of a Chad Sterbens single to make the Ole Miss advantage 6-1.