STICKING AROUND: Rebels top Georgia, advance in SEC Tournament
HOOVER, Ala. — The goal was simple. Win and hang around for at least a couple more days.
That is exactly what No. 7-seeded Ole Miss will be doing as the Rebels defeated No. 10 seed Georgia, 5-1, in Tuesday’s single-elimination round of the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
The prize for moving on to the double-elimination portion of the tournament is a date with No. 2 seed South Carolina at 1 p.m. today. The Gamecocks, who won the SEC East title, swept Ole Miss (41-16) during their regular-season encounter in Oxford last month.
“The Tuesday game is elimination day and puts pressure on you to play well,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “Sometimes it goes as scripted and today it did.”
The offense was sluggish at first as Georgia starter Heath Holder kept the Rebels off the board the first three innings. That changed with a four-run fourth thanks to the duo of J.B. Woodman and third baseman Colby Bortles.
Holder, who worked seven innings and allowed only one run in the Bulldogs’ win over Ole Miss on May 8, lasted only 3 2/3 innings on Tuesday, giving up four runs on four hits.
“(Holder) was really good those first three innings,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said. “He just left a couple balls up to J.B. and to Bortles and those guys are in the middle of the order for a reason. I thought his stuff the first three innings was as good as I’ve seen and he may have gassed out a little bit”
Woodman, the recently named All-SEC cente fielder, hit a two-run triple, scoring Tate Blackman and Will Golsan. Bortles followed with a two-run double later in the frame to score Woodman and catcher Henri Lartigue. Woodman provided more offense in the fifth with an RBI double to plate Golsan for the winning margin.
Woodman finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs while Bortles went 1-for-4 with two RBIs. Five Rebel batters recorded a least one hit.
“(Holder) threw a lot of sliders early in the count, late in the count and kept us off balance throughout the game,” Bortles said. “Later in the innings, we started getting some better at-bats and started fouling off those sliders and getting fastballs.”
During the rain delay against Texas A&M in the regular-season finale on Saturday, it was determined Brady Bramlett would get the start and was asked to give as much as he could. With a 60-pitch count limit set on him Tuesday, Bramlett only needed 57 and worked four innings of three-hit baseball, giving up only one run. Georgia’s lone run was a solo home run by center fielder Stephen Wrenn in the first inning. Georgia (27-30) had a chance for more in the opening frame with two runners in scoring position, but first baseman Trevor Kieboom lined out to Woodman to end the threat.
From there, Bramlett and the Ole Miss bullpen put up eight scoreless innings.
“After the home run, the mindset that we’ve talked about all year for our staff is to make the big pitch and get off the field,” Bramlett said. “I felt great today. Regardless of how I felt, I’m going to go out and compete.”
Brady Feigl worked three scoreless innings of relief while Will Stokes and closer Wyatt Short worked the last six outs. Stokes worked a batter into the ninth but was pulled for Short after Georgia got an infield single after it bounced off Bortles’ outstretched glove.
“I’m almost mad at myself that he didn’t start in the ninth,” Bianco said of Short. “We’ve done that all year. When you have a win in this league, you better take it or you’re going to be scratching your head saying, ‘Why didn’t I do that?’”