OXFORD, Miss. –Matt Crouse continued to turn in solid outings on the mound, pitching 6.2 scoreless innings and combined with Jake Morgan for a shutout as Ole Miss (15-4, 1-0 SEC) opened Southeastern Conference play with a 4-0 win over Alabama (11-7, 0-1 SEC) on Friday night.
The Rebels have now allowed only one run in the last 45.0 innings of play following the shutout of the Crimson Tide.
Crouse (5-0) grabbed his fifth-straight win as the Friday starter for the Rebels, allowing only three hits with seven strikeouts in the 6.2 innings of work. Jake Morgan picked up his fifth save of the year, entering the game with two men on in the seventh and working the final 2.1 innings. He allowed four hits and struck out three on the night.
Nathan Kilcrease (2-1) suffered his first loss of the season, allowing four runs – two earned – on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts in 7.0 innings of work.
Zach Kirksey led the Rebel offense, going 1-for-2 at the plate with a two-run home run to get the scoring started for the Rebels. It was the third home run of the season for the junior outfielder.
“It was a typical Friday night in the Southeastern Conference,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “It was a well pitched game. I thought Matt Crouse was terrific tonight. Zach Kirksey was able to get the big home run and we were able to take advantage of some opportunities and put together an inning. Jake Morgan was tremendous there at the end.”
It was a pitcher’s duel through the early innings as neither team could muster a run through the first four innings of play.
Ole Miss got on the board in the fifth when Kirksey came up with a big home run to left center that scored Miles Hamblin and gave the Rebels a 2-0 lead. Hamblin opened the inning with a single before moving to second on a sac bunt from Austin Anderson before the Kirksey hit.
The Rebels continued to take advantage of opportunities in the inning, using a pair of errors to push two more runs home. Blake Newalu reached on a single to left, and scored a batter later when Tanner Mathis singled through the right side. The Alabama right fielder misplayed the ball, allowing Newalu to score from first and Mathis to advance to third on the play.
Mathis scored two batters later when a fielding error at second on a ground ball from Matt Smith allowed him to score as Smith reached safely to give the Rebels a 4-0 lead.
Alabama threatened in the seventh, putting two men on with two outs. The Rebels then turned to the bullpen for Morgan who struck out the first batter faced to end the Crimson Tide rally. Alabama would again get a man to third in the ninth, but Morgan preserved the shutout with a strikeout and a fielder’s choice to give the Rebels the win.
Ole Miss and Alabama will take the field for the second game of the series Saturday at 2 p.m. at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field. The game will be televised by SportSouth as a part of the SEC television package.
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