Before anyone got settled in at Swazye Field on Thursday night, Kentucky leadoff hitter Evan White sent Brady Bramlett’s third pitch of the game into the left field corner for a double that put Bramlett in a jam right out of the gates. The junior right-hander quickly shook it off, and followed it up by getting Zack Reks looking, and then followed it up with two more strike outs of the swinging variety to end the inning.
“The double was a pitch that I made a mistake on. I left it arm side,” Bramlett said of facing White. “I was determined to not let them cross the plate, and so it just felt good to get those three punch outs to end the first.”
An emotional Bramlett jogged to the dugout with no damage done
That opening sequence seemed set the tone for the rest of his night in the Rebels’ 3-1 win. He had to battle. Time after time Kentucky threatened to try to pull ahead of Ole Miss (37-13, 15-10 SEC), and Bramlett and as well as all four Rebel pitchers on the night, answered the bell, and made pitch after pitch. Kentucky left nine men on the base and did not plate a runner in scoring position in any of its 11 attempts.
“There is no misread that my last couple of starts have been a struggle for me, so it just felt good tonight to feel like myself again, and pitch like myself again,” Bramlett said. “The mentality for myself tonight was just to obviously give our team the best chance to win, and to just get back to being me, which is locating the fastball in and trying to dominate teams with the fastball.”
It was certainly effective as he struck out seven over 5.1 innings, and picked up his seventh win of the year.
Runs were hard to come by on Thursday, but Ole Miss found enough, and the first one came on a Holt Perdzock two-out RBI single up the middle in the second inning that gave Ole Miss an early 1-0 advantage.
It didn’t last long though, as Kentucky center fielder Tristan Pompey led off the top half of the third with a solo shot to right to even the score. The tie lasted for just an inning due to Cam Dishon legging out an infield single with two down in the bottom of the fourth that allowed Will Golsan to score, and extending the inning as well as reclaiming the lead for Ole Miss.
All three of the Rebels’ runs came on two-out singles. It was the theme of the night as Ole Miss had to grind out its first win of the year when scoring less than four runs.
Bramlett left the game in the sixth, and turned it over to a bullpen that has helped Ole Miss get to 33-0 on the year when leading after six innings. Bramlett’s successor, Brady Feigl came in and immediately got the Rebels out of a two men on and one out situation in the sixth to preserve an tight 2-1 lead.
“Our bullpen is phenomenal. It is no secret that one of the major strengths of our team is our bullpen,” Bramlett said of the pen. “Like coach B mentioned in our meeting, you forget about the guys throwing in the middle sometimes, and Feigl came in with two runners on with one out, which was critical, and did his job.”
It came in unorthodox fashion though. With two outs in the inning, Feigl struck out Troy Squires swinging on a ball in the dirt that catcher Henri Lartigue blocked and fielded. He threw down to first and the ball hit Squires before it hit Golsan in the knee and squirted into right field. It appeared as if both Kentucky runners had scored, but Squire was called out for interference and it ended the inning, negating the two potential runs.
“The runner was in the base line and it hit him in the elbow, and then hit me in the knee. So it kind of trickled down into the outfield,” Golsan said of the play. “But the umpire was on top of it, and made the right call.”
“Great call,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “That’s why they line that thing out, that running path. Nobody knows why they do that, but that’s why it’s there.”
Feigl not only kept Ole Miss ahead, but also got them to the seventh inning, setting up a Will Stokes and Wyatt Short combination over the last three frames that has slammed the door on opponents this year.
“I thing one of the one of the things that will get lost here is Feigl’s two outs in the sixth to get us to that so important seventh inning where you can go to Stokes and Short,” Bianco said.
Before Stokes’ two scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth, Colby Bortles provided an insurance run with a two out single in the seventh
Stokes set the table for Short, who picked up his 10th save of the year in the ninth, and gave Ole Miss its 15th SEC win of the year.
“The message all year has been to play tough, play hard and compete, regardless of the circumstance or outcome,” Bramlett said. “We have really stayed true to that all year.”
Game two tomorrow is set for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch