A Look Back At Opening Weekend

Three games into the season and what do we know? That the Rebels won three games, for starters.

Friday was a bit of an unusual start as Ole Miss made two outfield errors in the top of the first to allow three Wright State runs. But we found out Ole Miss can answer, scoring seven in the bottom of the first and chasing Raider ace Casey Henn.

A 50-minute first inning to the new season had many joking that these new NCAA-mandated bats didn't seem to be speeding things up. The time clock (90 seconds between half innings and 20 seconds between pitches with nobody on base) actually did help. The only game that was more than three hours this weekend was the 10-inning Saturday contest, which went 3:14.

Of Ole Miss' 38 hits on the weekend, seven of them were for extra bases. Two of those were for home runs – Miles Hamblin Friday and Preston Overbey Saturday.

Hamblin caught Friday and Sunday. Taylor Hightower caught Saturday and had some moments – two passed balls and two catchers' interference. Those are negatives indeed if you play for the former catcher, Mike Bianco. And they can be costly for the team.

Tanner Mathis, who led Rebel hitters in the fall with a .420 average, looks to have gained a stronger hold on an outfield spot with solid defensive play and going 6 for 13 at the plate, leading the team in batting average after three games at .462. The rest of the outfield depends on the potential return to first base for DH Matt Snyder.

Matt Smith was at first base except for Saturday when he was in right field. On Saturday Hamblin was at first, and Hightower caught.

Alex Yarbrough was sensational at second base all weekend, which was expected. He batted 5 for 14.

Shortstop Blake Newalu gives the Rebels a real presence at the No. 9 spot in the lineup. He was 3 for 4 with a double and a stolen base on Sunday.

Overbey had an excellent debut weekend at third base, going 5 for 13 with a homer and 6 RBI.

Matt Crouse
Bruce Newman
On the mound, Matt Crouse had a solid debut Friday. Earlyon he didn't get much support with the two errors, but the rest of the way he was good. Only two earned runs in six innings. Eric Callendar came in and went the final three innings, allowing seven hits. But the big number was he gave up only one run.

Brett Huber getting knocked around a bit Saturday was a surprise, but he came back with more confidence and effectiveness Sunday in closing out the final win with a precarious 6-5 UM lead.

Jake Morgan, after a bit of an early rough start when he came in on Saturday, settled nicely and went the final 2.2 innings to get the win.

David Goforth's performance might have been the highlight of the entire weekend. The Rebel right-hander started Saturday and pitched 7.0 scoreless innings with a walk and five strikeouts, allowing only five hits.

Austin Wright showed a lot of promise through five innings of pitching, starting on Sunday. One earned run on six hits with five strikeouts and two walks is a good game-three performance from a starter.

Although Wright just went five innings, Trent Rothlin came in and went a couple of innings, allowing just a run on two hits with two Ks and a BB. It was R.J. Hively that found the going rough thereafter. He had three runs on four hits with just a strikeout and pitched a third of an inning before being pulled in favor of Huber.

Tanner Mathis
Bruce Newman
Huber stepped up his game Sunday from Saturday and in 1.2 innings allowed nothing with two strikeouts.

That's a bit of a recap from the weekend. The crowds were phenomenal for three games in February with more than 24,000 for the weekend. But who expects less now for Ole Miss baseball when the weather is good?

Now it's on to Tuesday and Wednesday. Matt Tracy gets the start on the mound Tuesday at 3 p.m. against Memphis. Hively will get to rectify his rocky outing Wednesday against Arkansas State, also at 3 p.m.

Wright State hadn't practiced outside hardly at all. The Raiders committed only two errors to the Rebels' five miscues on the weekend.

"A team from up north that hasn't been out a lot. They weren't kicking a lot of balls," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "They're very well coached. You can tell why they win their league and go to NCAA Tournaments a lot. They play very well."

Bianco was pleased with Newalu at shortstop.

"The most important thing at shortstop is the glove, and he played terrific all weekend," he said. "Sunday he looked a little more relaxed at the plate and got some good swings off. And you saw what he brings. He can bunt, he can steal some bases. It's good get him going."

That being said, freshman Austin Anderson will start at shortstop for the Rebels against Memphis.

Fifth-year player Matt Smith said the Rebels can build on the successful weekend.

"We won in different ways, which is good for us right now," he said. "This was a pretty good test for us this weekend. It's great to see that our team can be put in situations like that and keep our focus and pull it out at the end."

Memphis, the Tuesday foe, swept Evansville three games to open its season – 13-9, 8-4, and 17-6.

Arkansas State lost its first three games, all at the Auburn Invitational – to Auburn 13-5, to UAB 5-3, and to Virginia 8-2.

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