Comeback stuns Rebels|Western Kentucky erases six-run deficit in eighth inning

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 1, 2009

OXFORD — No lead is safe with Western Kentucky. Down 9-3 in the eighth inning and facing Ole Miss closer Jake Morgan, the Hilltoppers put together an improbable rally.

The ‘Toppers scored six runs to tie the game and then got a solo home run from Jake Wells in the ninth for the game-winner in a 10-9 slugfest at the NCAA Tournament’s Oxford Regional.

The win prevented Ole Miss (42-18) from wrapping up the regional title. They get another chance tonight at 7 in a winner-take-all contest.

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WKU coach Chris Finwood said postgame that he had never seen anything like this before,

“I’ve been doing this for 21 years and this was the best comeback I’ve seen. To play 18 innings and come out like this is an amazing feeling,” Finwood said. The Hilltoppers (42-19) had to beat Missouri (11-6) just to make it to the finals.

Ole Miss center fielder Jordan Henry, a former Vicksburg standout, tried to put a positive spin on the devastating loss,

“It’s over with. We’ve flushed it. We’ll be ready tommorrow. We’re playing in front of our crowd, so it won’t be hard at all to get up,” Henry said.

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco offered a possible second guess by bringing Morgan in early.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have brought in him that early. It’s hard sometimes for a closer to pitch with that big of a lead, but I don’t want to take any credit away from Western Kentucky. They hit everything we threw up there.”

The Hilltoppers finished with an incredible 20 hits. They had 11 hits in the first five innings, but only one run to show for it as Ole Miss was up 5-1.

Down 7-1, the ball started to leave the park as Matt Rice and Wade Gaynor hit a pair of solo shots. Ole Miss countered with a two-run homer from Matt Smith in the bottom of the seventh to make it 9-3.

Six outs away, Bianco brought in Morgan to close the deal with the bottom third of the Topper order up. Wells got a two-strike hit followed by a walk, and another two-strike flare by Matt Payton.

Jeremy Coleman then hit a hard liner to score one. Rice singled to right to score two to make it 9-6. Gaynor followed with a three-run bomb, his 25th of the season, to tie the game at 9.

“I just didn’t locate my pitches and I got hit around,” Morgan said. He left without getting an out, and was tagged for six runs off five hits. Nathan Baker got three outs to end the eighth. But in the ninth, he hung a two-strike slider to Wells, who blasted the pitch to right to give WKU a 10-9 lead.

Garrie Krueger retired Ole Miss in order in the ninth to finish the game and earn the save. Chad Adcock got the win by throwing a scoreless eighth. Ole Miss had a chance with Henry drawing a two-out walk, but was left on second when Smith hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice. Ole Miss jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning when Jeremy Travis doubled in two runs. With two out, Brett Basham singled to left to score Travis for a 3-0 advantage. The Hilltoppers had five hits through the first three innings against Ole Miss starter Brett Bukvich, but could not score. They finally got a run in the fourth Matt Hightower singled, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a ground out to first.

Ole Miss then got two runs in the fifth to go up 5-1. Kevin Mort beat out a grounder toward third, was sacrificed to second and then scored on Henry’s hit up the middle. Logan Power followed with a hit to left. Power and Henry then executed a double steal to move tothird and second. Henry later scored on Smith’s grounder to third.

Ole Miss added two runs in the sixth off a two-run single by Mort to go up 7-1.


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