Wednesday, May 25, 2005
HOOVER, Ala. -- Ole Miss junior right-hander Mark Holliman struck out a career-high 14 batters in seven innings to lead the Rebels to a 3-1 opening round Southeastern Conference Tournament win over the University of Alabama in front of a session record 11,318 fans at the Hoover Met.
Holliman (7-3) allowed only four hits in seven scoreless innings with four walks and 14 strikeouts.
"Holliman was terrific," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "He threw the ball hard. He had a good fast ball and breaking ball. When he pitches the way he did tonight, he is really hard to beat."
Despite the dominating pitching performance, Alabama still managed to bring the tying and winning run to the plate in the ninth inning against relief ace Stephen Head.
Trailing 3-1 in the ninth, senior right fielder Morrow Thomley legged out an infield hit to open the inning and give the Tide offense some hope. After senior first baseman Zac Welch struck out, junior catcher Kody Valverde drew a walk to put runners on first and second with one out.
After freshman shortstop Cale Iorg struck out for the second out of the inning, senior third baseman Rocky Scelfo fought-off four two-strike pitches before delivering a base hit to left field to score Thomley with the only run of the game and cap a 10-pitch at-bat. Sophomore center fielder Emeel Salem, who was the only UA player not to strike out against Ole Miss, grounded out to end the game.
Head notched his sixth save of the season and 25th of his Ole Miss career despite the shaky ninth inning. He allowed one run and two hits, with one walk and three strikeouts.
Alabama sophomore left-hander Wade LeBlanc was equally impressive on the mound with his second complete game of the season in his first career post-season start.
LeBlanc (4-5) allowed three runs and six hits in eight innings, with one walk and five strikeouts.
Ole Miss (41-16) took advantage of three Alabama errors in the second inning to take a 2-0 lead.
Head led off with an infield single but was erased at second when Mark Wright reached on a fielder's choice. A throwing error by Paiml, who failed to turn the double play, allowed Wright to move to second base.
After a ground out by Jon-Jon Hancock resulted in the second out of the inning, Zack Cozart singled up the middle on an 0-2 pitch. Wright scored on the play and Cozart took third when Salem's throw got past Valverde at the plate. Cozart scored when LeBlanc's throw to third went into left field.
"We played poorly early in the game and fell behind like we always seem to do," Wells added. "We had a chance to turn the double play and then throw the ball around the infield to give them a few more outs."
Ole Miss tacked on another run in the third inning when Cooper Osteen walked, moved to second on Chris Coghlan's double and scored on Brian Pettway's sacrifice fly to right field.
Alabama (37-20) had runners in scoring position in the first and second innings but did not score. The Crimson Tide had two runners on base in the fifth and seventh innings with one out and did not score.
The Crimson Tide avoided its first shutout loss in SEC Tournament history with a run in the ninth inning.
The two teams combined for only 12 hits in the game. Coghlan and Cozart had two hits to lead the Rebels. Thomley and Iorg had two hits each for the Tide.
Alabama drops into the loser's bracket and will face Arkansas in second round action on Thursday at 1 p.m. (CT). Ole Miss advances to a winner's bracket game against Florida at 8 p.m. In other tournament action, LSU and Tennessee meet in a loser's bracket game at 10 a.m., while South Carolina and Miss. State will play the other winner's bracket game at 5 p.m.
*Alabama suffered its first opening round loss in the SEC Tournament since a 11-8 loss to Auburn at the 1998 SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met. Alabama is 7-2 under Jim Wells in first round game.
*Alabama suffered its first SEC Tournament loss since dropping a 7-4 decision to Florida in 2002. Alabama had won six straight SEC tourney games and seven straight games at the Hoover Met before its loss to Ole Miss.
*Alabama struck out 17 times in the loss to Ole Miss to set the school SEC Tournament record for most strikeouts in a game. The previous record was 12 strikeouts against Florida in 1996.
*The 17 strikeouts are the most in a game by Alabama this season. The previous high was 14 in a 13-inning game at Vanderbilt on Mar. 26. The school record for most strikeouts is 21 against Georgia in 1908.
*Alabama is now 2-2 against Ole Miss in SEC Tournament play.
*Alabama made three errors in the second inning that led to two unearned runs for the Ole Miss Rebels. Second baseman Greg Piaml, center fielder Emeel Salem and pitcher Wade LeBlanc were all charged with throwing errors in the inning. Salem and LeBlanc's errors came on the same play.
*Senior first baseman Zac Welch extended his hitting streak to a season-high 10 straight games with a fifth inning single.
*Freshman shortstop Cale Iorg went 2-for-3 in his SEC Tournament debut. Iorg had half of the Crimson Tide's hits in the loss.
*Ole Miss right-hander Mark Holliman struck out a career-high 14 batters in the win over Alabama. The junior missed the SEC single-game strikeout record by one strikeout. The record was set by Florida's Rob Bonnano against Georgia in 1994. Bonnano pitched 10 innings in the game and was the losing pitcher.