Rebels pound Tide early in 4-2 victory
By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
March 29, 2004
TUSCALOOSA Ole Miss posted three-quarters of its hits and a third of its runs in the opening inning against Alabama on Sunday, and that was all Rebels pitcher Stephen Head needed to record his third win of the season.
Head (3-0) tossed just 89 pitches over 7.1 innings as No. 5 (Collegiate Baseball) Ole Miss took a 4-2 win over the Crimson Tide (17-8, 2-4 Southeastern Conference).
The Rebels sophomore lefthander gave up two runs on six hits and recorded three strikeouts, and Ole Miss improved to 20-3 overall and 5-1 in the SEC for the season.
Alabama starting pitcher Brandon Belcher issued a walk to Ole Miss second baseman Cooper Osteen on four straight pitches to start the game, and the Rebels made sure the Tide pitcher paid for his first-inning control problems.
Ole Miss plated three runs on three hits and an error to take a 3-0 lead in the top half of the first as Belcher, who committed an error trying to pick off Osteen at first base, faced eight batters and threw 41 pitches.
Belcher intentionally walked Rebels right fielder Seth Smith to load the bases after striking out Head and giving up a double steal by Osteen and Matt Tolbert.
Charlie Babineaux tallied the first run of the game for the Rebels with an infield single on a bunt, and Brian Pettway hit a fielder's choice to bring home the second run of the game.
Ole Miss center fielder Alex Presley closed the scoring in the opening inning with a single to left field for an early three-run lead.
Belcher, who took the loss, dropping his record to 2-3, settled down for the Tide after his first-inning struggles.
The left-handed freshman gave up just four hits for the rest of the game and recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts, including five in a row from the last out in the fourth inning to the first out in the sixth. Belcher gave up four runs, three earned, on seven total hits, and he walked three one intentionally in 6.1 innings of work.
Alabama knocked Ole Miss' lead down to two runs in the bottom of the sixth when the Tide collected just their third and fourth hits of the game against Head.
Rocky Scelfo, who went 3-for-4 for the Tide, ripped a double to left field with one out, and Alabama first baseman Evan Bush brought Selfo home with a single to left to cut the Rebels' lead to 3-1.
Ole Miss boosted its lead back up to three runs in the top of the seventh.
Head notched his only hit of the game, sending a first-pitch offering into right field for an RBI single. Osteen, who reached on an error, scored for a 4-1 advantage.
Alabama left fielder Gabe Scott reduced Ole Miss' lead back down to two in the bottom of the seventh.
The junior outfielder smacked a double to left-center field to score Allen Rice, who reached base on a one-out walk, to cut the Rebels' lead to 4-2.
The Tide threatened the Rebels' lead in the bottom of the seventh, putting their first two batters on first and second with a single and a walk.
Head struck out the third batter of the seventh, but Bianco brought in reliever Jeremy Zick to close the inning.
Zick, who made his eighth appearance of the year, induced a line drive out to Osteen, who flipped the ball to shortstop Matt Tolbert at second for the double play to end Alabama's threat.
Tolbert went 3-for-4 for the Rebels, and Presley went 2-for-4 in the win.