HOOVER, Ala. -Mike Mayers turned in a quality start for the Rebels as the pitching staff limited opportunities all morning and sixth-seeded and No. 21 Ole Miss (37-20) defeated 11th-seeded Kentucky (30-25) by a score of 4-1 in the SEC Tournament opener on Tuesday.
The one run scored by the Wildcats was unearned, coming on a throwing error in the fourth inning.
With the win, the Rebels will now advance to face the third-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks (35-19) at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. By advancing, the Rebels now enter into the double elimination phase of the tournament against the Razorbacks who earned a bye on Tuesday's opening round of play.
Mike Mayers (5-5) picked up the win, working 6.1 innings and allowing the one unearned run on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Right-hander Tanner Bailey picked up his fourth save of the year, working the ninth as the Rebels picked up the three-run win.
Left-hander Jeremy Massie bridged the gap between Mayers and Bailey, working 1.2 innings with a hit and a walk, but held Kentucky off the board.
Jerad Grundy (6-6) took the loss for the Wildcats, allowing four runs on nine hits with a strikeout through 5.2 innings of work.
"The talk after the game was how terrific Mike Mayers was today," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "I don't know if we have another player who can do what he just did. It probably worked out better than we could have imagined; he was terrific today. Of course, Jeremy Massie came in with a tough position and was composed to get us out of the seventh inning."
"We had some timely hits," Bianco said. "It was nice to see the guys continue to swing after coming out of the last two games at LSU where we swung the bat well. We played well today."
Ole Miss got on the board in the first inning when Andrew Mistone hit a sac fly to right field to score Austin Anderson. Anderson reached on a single to right before a single to right from Stuart Turner sent him from first to third.
The Rebels added to the lead in the third inning off an RBI-double down the first base line from Anderson that scored Christian Helsel. Helsel doubled off the wall in left to open the inning and then moved to third on a sac bunt from Tanner Mathis before the Anderson hit.
Kentucky got on the board in the fourth, taking advantage of a Rebel miscue to cut the lead in half. With two outs and men at the corners, the Wildcat's Austin Cousino took off for second on a steal attempt. The throw from the plate sailed into centerfield following a late break to the bag by both middle infielders, allowing the runner on third to come home.
The Rebels got the run back with some insurance in the sixth inning, pushing two runs home to take the lead out to 4-1. A one-out double from Andrew Mistone put a man in scoring position before Auston Bousfield delivered a single to right to bring him home. A single to right from pinch-hitter Austin Knight two batters later moved Bousfield into scoring position and set up an RBI single from Will Allen.
Ole Miss led 4-1 after the sixth.
Kentucky would threaten in the seventh, putting two men and sending the Rebels to the bullpen for Massie with one out. A swinging bunt loaded the bases on a perfectly placed ball, but Massie got an infield fly and a groundout to end the inning and keep Ole Miss on top.
The left-hander then worked a scoreless eighth before Tanner Bailey closed out the ninth to give the Rebels the win.
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