HED:Rebs tie record with 10th straight loss, 7-3 to Fla.
By Mike Talbert
OXFORD Ole Miss coach Pat Harrison is willing to try anything to stop a school record-tying losing streak.
That includes starting the relievers and then bringing in the starters to finish.
The strategy came close, but earned no cigar Saturday. At least the the game didn't have a football score like Friday's 17-14 loss, but the result was still the same. Brad Henderson grounded into a double play with the bases loaded Saturday as the Rebels lost to Florida 7-3.
That loss tied the Rebels' school record of 10 straight losses, a mark set in 1949.
The Rebels (14-14, 2-9 SEC) will be trying to prevent breaking the record and to avoid a sweep by the No. 18 Gators (20-11, 6-5) at 2 p.m. today. Lance Tolbert (3-2, 4.78), recently shifted to the bullpen, will hopefully set up for Rebel ace Dan DeYoung (2-4, 4.62 ERA) in a matchup with Florida freshman standout Matt McClendon (4-2, 6.85 ERA).
Harrison said his unorthodox pitching decision was done for purely psychological reasons after seeing his team visibly sag when the starters had to leave the game because the Rebel bullpen has been unable to finish.
"I thought, what the hell, we might as well go backwards. I felt like we could hit (Florida winner Sergio Rodriguez)," Harrison said.
The Rebels' usual Saturday starter, Mike Rogers, was in there for the finish as the Gators pecked out four runs off him.
Florida took advantage of a couple of fielding mistakes to take a 3-0 lead in the first inning off loser Dan McShea (2-2), who was making his first start in 11 appearances. Those mistakes included Josh Huisman diving for a line drive that turned a single into a two-run Chuck Hazard triple.
When Rogers entered in the top of the fourth, Harrison said, "We were down 3-0, but I think everybody thought we could still win this game."
However, Rodriguez, with a 4.91 ERA this year, shut the Rebels out until the seventh when third baseman Scott Eskra led off with a double and scored on catcher Matt Ceriani's single.
The Rebels finally chased Rodriguez in the eighth when Henderson followed center fielder Chad Hill's first home run of the year with a double to the left-center gap. Jason Huisman singled off reliever Josh Fogg.
The Rebels looked like they would get to Fogg when Ceriani singled, pinch hitter Mark Dixon doubled and Hill walked with one out. Henderson, who represented the tying run, hit a hard grounder that Gator shortstop Ty Martin went deep to pull in. It was the second night in a row the Rebels had either the winning or tying run at the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
In Friday's 17-14 loss, the Rebels had the bases loaded with one out in a game that saw 38 hits between the two teams. Ole Miss's last two batters struck out swinging.
"It shouldn't have never got to a situation where we needed a break in the ninth inning," Hill said.
Harrison said Hill played his way into a fulltime starting role in center and the leadoff spot this weekend.
Hill, a freshman from Oxford and son of Tupelo football coach Johnny Hill, had been platooned, and Saturday was only his 10th start.
"Chad brings an energy to the club that's really needed," Harrison said.
FLORIDA 7, OLE MISS 3
Florida 300 001 021 7 14 0
Ole Miss 000 000 120 3 11 2
WP- Sergio Rodriguez (3-2. LP- Dan McShea (2-2). Multiple Hits- (F) David Eckstein 3, Mark Ellis 2, Derek Nicholson 2, Casey Smith 2, (M) Jason Huisman 2, Matt Ceriani 2. 2B- (F) Eckstein, Ty Martin; (M) Brad Henderson, Scott Eskra, Mark Dixon. 3B- (F) Chuck Hazzard, Ellis. HR- (F) Brad Wilkerson (14), (M) Chad Hill (1).
Records: Florida 20-11, 5-4 SEC, Ole Miss 14-14, 2-7.
FLORIDA 17, OLE MISS 14
Florida 102 000 (13)0 17 20 2
Ole Miss 014 003 114 14 18 5
WP- Josh Fogg (4-2). LP- Scott Parsonage (0-1). Multiple Hits- (F) Mark Ellis 2, Brad Wilkerson 4, Chuck Hazzard 3, Derek Nicholson 2, Brian Haught 2, Travis Andre 3, Ty Martin 2, (M) Chad Hill 2, Brad Henderson 3, Jude Voltz 3, Sean Eylar 2, Scott Eskra 2, Matt Ceriani 2. 2B- (F) Wilkerson, (M) Voltz, Ceriani. HR- (F) Wilkerson (13), Casey Smith (3)m (M) Eylar (5), Jason Huisman (3).