USM takes 5-3 decision from 13th-ranked Ole Miss

Wallner hits pair of home runs; USM pitching limits Rebels to 5 hits

USM takes 5-3 decision from 13th-ranked Ole Miss

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) _ Matt Wallner had not been part of a University of Southern Mississippi baseball team that had beaten the University of Mississippi.

That changed Wednesday night, and Wallner was a big reason.

Wallner saved two runs with a leaping catch at the wall in right field before swatting a pair of solo home runs for the Golden Eagles as USM topped the 13th-ranked Rebels 5-3 before the fifth-largest crowd in Pete Taylor Park history.

“I’d never beaten Ole Miss until (Wednesday), so that was a pretty fun one,” said Wallner, who collected the fourth multiple home run game of his career and second in the past 11 days.

“I have a lot of respect for all those guys over there on the other side, so it was just fun to compete against those guys.”

USM (30-13) won its ninth consecutive game by snapping a five-game losing streak against Ole Miss (30-16). The win also boosted the Golden Eagles to the 30-win plateau for the 18th consecutive season.

Bryant Bowen hit his ninth home run of the season, the Golden Eagles’ third solo shot in the game, and Hunter LeBlanc and Danny Lynch each had two hits and drove in a run before an announced 5,202.

The Rebels managed only five hits against seven USM pitchers.

“I think the story is we didn’t score,” Ole Miss Mike Bianco said. “We didn’t have any hits. Five hits and two (were) bleeders. We have to do a better job offensively.”

After bringing a flyball by Ole Miss designated hitter Cole Zabowski back into the ballpark to save two runs, Wallner gave USM a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second with his 13th home run of the season.

Ole Miss tied the game in the fourth inning when Zabowski singled, moved to second on a walk and scored on Anthony Servideo’s single.

The Golden Eagles regained the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

With one out, Bowen’s long drive cleared the “Tradition of Excellence” billboard in left field. Wallner followed with a single to right field, stole second base and scored on LeBlanc’s double into no man’s land near the foul line in short left field to give USM a 3-1 lead.

Ole Miss tied the game in the seventh off USM reliever Brant Blaylock.

Pinch-hitter Josh Hall led off the inning with a walk and then stole second. Grae Kessinger’s double into the left-center field gap scored Hall.

Tyler Keenan followed with another flyball into the gap that USM left fielder Gabe Montenegro misplayed into a two-base error, allowing Kessinger to come around and tied the game.

But USM, again, answered immediately.

After a nine-pitch at-bat, LeBlanc singled to right field. He then stole second and scored on Lynch’s single into right-center field to give the Golden Eagles a 4-3 lead.

Wallner then capped the night with his second solo shot of the game and his 14th of the season.

Wallner finished his night with three hits, three runs scored and two driven in.

“We know how good he can be,” Bianco said of Wallner. “What a great player. He’s one of the best players in the country … He’s really good. Tough to pitch (to).

“He hit out a 3-2 breaking ball and then he hit out a ball that was supposed to be off the plate that didn’t quite get there. The guy handles a lot of good pitches.”

J.C. Keys (2-1) entered the game in the top of the seventh inning with two Ole Miss runs in and Keenan at second base.

But Keys struck out Thomas Dillard and Zabowski, the Rebels’ clean-up and five-hole hitters, to close the inning before working a 1-2-3 eighth inning.

In the ninth inning, shortstop Will McGillis had a grounder slide under his glove into center field. But Keys shrugged off the error and struck out the next three Ole Miss batters to lock down the victory.

“He made that error, but I told him, ‘I’ve got you,’” Keys said.

Max Cioffi (1-2), the third of six Rebel pitchers, took the loss after facing two batters and allowing two hits and a run.

Max Cioffi (1-2), the third of six Rebel pitchers, took the loss after facing two batters and allowing two hits and a run.

Matt Guidry, who walked in the seventh inning, extended a streak of reaching base at least once in a game to 38 consecutive games.

USM will welcome Florida Atlantic University to Pete Taylor Park this weekend for a three-game, Conference USA baseball series. The first game is set for 6 p.m. Friday night.

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