OXFORD, MS (WDAM) - For the second time in five days, a University of Southern Mississippi starting pitcher left a baseball game with the Golden Eagles holding a multi-run lead.
And, for the second time in five days, USM was largely undone by a three-run home run in the latter innings against a Golden Eagle reliever.
Thomas Dillard's three-run home run capped a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning as the fourth-ranked University of Mississippi overcame a five-run deficit to defeat 14th-ranked University of Southern Mississippi 7-6 Tuesday night at Swayze Field.
The Golden Eagles (17-6), who led 5-0 after 3 ½ innings, scored once in the ninth inning and had the tying- and go-ahead runs at first and third with two outs before Hunter Slater _ who already had had homered twice and driven in four runs _ flied out to the warning track in center field to end the game.
Slater keyed a four-run first inning with a three-run home run to give the Golden Eagles a quick lead, then added his sixth home run of the season in the third inning to put USM up 5-0.
But the Rebels' bullpen allowed just two Golden Eagles to reach base between the fifth and eighth innings, and Ole Miss (23-3) began to bunch together baserunners themselves.
The Rebels got to USM starter J.C. Keys in the fourth, with a walk, a fielder's choice and single leaving runners on first and second with one out.
After a fly out, Chase Cockrell hit a 1-2 pitch down the right-field line for a two-out, two-run double and he came around to score on two wild pitches to get Ole Miss within 5-3 after four innings.
In the seventh, Ole Miss loaded the bases on a single, a walk and a bunt single. One run scored on a fielder's choice grounder, and then Dillard deposited the second pitch he saw from reliever Adam Jackson over the wall in left-center field for the game-winning hit.
In the ninth, with the Golden Eagles facing fireballer closer Parker Caracci, LeeMarcus Boyd singled and went to third on a throwing error. Boyd scored on Gabe Montenegro's groundball to the right side to get USM back within a run.
Caracci struck out pinch-hitter Mason Irby, but Luke Reynolds coaxed a full-count walk, and Matt Wallner followed with a single to right field sending Wallner to third base.
Slater, who also had singled in the eighth inning, then sent a Caracci offering to the deepest part of the park, with Will Golsan backing into the center-field fence to track down the final out of the game.
USM reliever Cody Carroll (0-1) took the loss, facing just two batters and allowing a bunt single and a fielder's choice grounder. Ole Miss reliever Greer Holston (1-0) picked up the win with 1/23 perfect innings that included three strikeouts while Caracci picked up his fourth save with his rollercoaster ninth inning.
USM returns home for the start of an eight-game homestand by welcoming Rice University to Pete Taylor Park for a three-game Conference USA series. The first game starts at 6 p.m. Friday.