The Rebels, beating TCU 1-0 to open the season, had seemingly been in control all game. Yes, it was close, but Bobby Wahl and Tanner Bailey had pitched the Rebels into the ninth inning with the slim lead, but still it was a lead.
Enter Brett Huber. Needing a save to become the all-time saves leader at Ole Miss, surpassing Stephen Head, leadoff batter Jantzen Witte reached on a throwing error by Austin Anderson.
A bunt by Brett Johnson was well executed, and the Horned Frogs had runners at first and second with no outs. Davy Wright came in to pinch hit for TCU, and sac bunted the runners over.
Dylan Fitzgerald was walked intentionally, and Kevin Daniels came up with bases loaded and the Rebels in all kinds of trouble, with one out.
As Daniels hit the ball toward Sikes Orvis, the Rebel first baseman threw to Anderson at shortstop. Fitzgerald slid into Anderson, and the umpire ruled runner’s interference, which meant both Fitzgerald and Daniels were called out.
Ballgame 1-0. Ole Miss 1-0. TCU 0-1.
So have you ever seen one end that way, Coach Bianco, came the question?
“No,” came the brief answer.
Bianco said the story of the game began with the two starting pitchers – Bobby Wahl for the Rebels and Brandon Finnegan for the Horned Frogs.
“It looked like a Friday night in the SEC,” said the 13-year Ole Miss head coach. “Two aces really battling it out. I thought Bobby was sensational tonight, but I thought Finnegan really matched him pitch for pitch. Tough guy to face to start the season.”
The Rebels had an opportunity to add to their 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth. Auston Bousfield, 2-for-3 on the day, walked with one out. A successful hit and run by Will Allen put Rebels on first and third and Stuart Turner at the plate. Turner was hit by a Finnegan pitch to load the bases.
But the Rebels didn’t capitalize. Orvis struck out looking, and Mistone flew out to first in foul territory. And the Rebels had lost that opportunity to expand their 1-0 lead.
The Rebels had gotten their lead just an inning earlier. A leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth by Orvis finally got something going for the Rebels off Finnegan. Mistone moved Orvis to second on a groundout. Orvis stole third on what initially appeared to be a passed ball as the TCU catcher dropped it. But Orvis made it to third base and then came home on a suicide squeeze by Will Jamison.
“Some good baserunning. Fleet of foot, that Sikes Orvis,” Bianco smiled and said. “Proud of Jamison after not getting a bunt down the first at-bat. But this was a perfect squeeze and that was good.”
Bianco was pleased with all his pitchers in this one.
“Proud of Huber,” he said. “He comes out there to save the game. He threw the ball in the strike zone like you’re supposed to, and we don’t field it behind him. He shows why he is the all-time saves leader.”
Tanner Bailey relieved Wahl after an out in the seventh. Bailey went 1.2 innings and had nothing in his stat line but a strikeout in five batters faced.
“We knew we would go to (Bailey) first, and there was no way Bobby could finish the game,” Bianco said. “I thought (Bailey) was lights out. He threw three pitches into the strike zone. Good array of pitches for his inning and two-thirds.”
As for the final play of the game, Bianco said he was watching other things, as were seemingly most people.
“Didn’t see it,” he said. “As they’re starting to turn the play, I’m looking at first base to see if we’re going to get him. Then they called interference (at second base). Tough way (for TCU) to lose the game. But I’m assuming you don’t make that call unless it’s pretty obvious to the umpire.”
There weren’t many scoring opportunities in the game. Ole Miss had five hits and TCU just four. There were five walks in the game between the two teams.
Huber said he was pleased to become the all-time saves leader at Ole Miss, but the win was sweeter than any historical stat in the record book.
“It took me a little while to get warmed up,” he said. “I guess it was butterflies for the first game of the year, and I’ve got to get back to attacking the strike zone. I didn’t really attack the strike zone as good as I usually do. Packed house, first night, ranked team. I’m ready to get back to getting out there and getting them out 1, 2, 3.”
Finnegan (6 innings, 5 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts) got the loss. Wahl (6.1 innings, 3 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts) got the win. Huber got the save.
Ole Miss got the win. TCU got the loss.
As for the interference play that ended it and made sure he got that 27th save of his Ole Miss career? Huber said he was watching elsewhere as well.
“I didn’t see it either,” he said.
What he and the Rebels do see is 1-0.
Game two between the Horned Frogs and Rebels is Saturday at 1:30 p.m.