Falling Short

The Rebels made just enough mistakes in Hattiesburg to lose to a team with an RPI among the top six in the country. You can't do that on the road and win many times.

So Ole Miss lost 4-3 in extra innings to Southern Mississippi, a good team. But the Rebels had their chances. As much as anything, it was the fact that Ole Miss stopped scoring in the third inning.

There were opportunities, none moreso than the tenth inning when there were Rebels on first and second with no outs and they failed to score. A Golden Eagle error helped out in that situation, and it appeared the Rebels were ready to take the lead. But it didn't happen.

So missed opportunities offensively attributed to the loss as much as anything. Pitching was good enough.

Six arms were used by Ole Miss coaches, and USM only scored four runs – in ten innings – on eight hits. You can win with pitching like that in that environment.

Southern got its first two runs when starter Matt Tracy was in the game. He walked three in five innings, which was a little uncharacteristic for him and for Rebel pitching this season. The next five pitchers over the next five frames walked just one, and that was when Bobby Wahl was on the mound.

I wasn't surprised Mike Bianco used as many pitchers as he did. He's trying not only to win a game at the time but also get some arms some experience for conference games and contests the next two and a half months.

After Tracy, R.J. Hively pitched an inning and gave up three hits and a run. The right-handed junior is still working his way back from injury and being out of action for three-plus weeks. He wasn't as effective as he needed to be, but he has to log some innings to get back to form.

Same for Wahl, who came in next and pitched two innings with just one hit and a strikeout to go along with his lone walk. It will be interesting to see how the freshman right-hander, like Hively out of action for three-plus weeks, continues to improve and help as the season moves on.

Difficult finish at Pete Taylor Park for Ole Miss
Ryan Moore
Wahl came in highly touted and was in the mix for a weekend start. We've all seen it before where a guy like Wahl makes it into the rotation sometime in the season. That might or might not happen this season. Certainly by tournament time a guy like Wahl is invaluable to your staff. Like Hively will be.

Blair Wright continues to try to get back to effectiveness after more than a year off with Tommy John and rehab. It remains to be seen how well he will help this season, but certainly he can be a guy that comes in and eats up a few outs or an inning. He got the loss last night but was only on the mound for two-thirds of an inning. An unearned run was credited to his line, the error being charged to Tanner Mathis in the outfield on the drop that allowed the winning run.

Brett Huber was actually on the mound at the time the game ended, and he's another guy who is trying to find his way back to being as effective as he was last season. He hasn't pitched badly, just allowed more walks than a late reliever should.

Base-running mistakes and two errors, the last one etched in memory because of the timing and result, were critical. The two times Rebels got thrown out for rounding third and heading home are killers. In a close game against a good team on the road, it will often cost you the game.

But blame for losing is shared, and the total three-hour package wasn't good enough to win an important game.

I sense freshman Preston Overbey is beginning to get more comfortable. A lot was made of his potential all-star abilities upon arrival. Last night's 2-for-3 performance with a double, a walk and two RBI are more like what you're looking for as he continues to adjust to Division I baseball.

A lot of players were involved in the game Wednesday night. If you win and that happens, good deal. If you don't, then it raises a few concerns as to why. Much of it at the plate is a pitchers-hitters matchup and coaches trying to get the right situation for success. Also a lot of young players and less used players get a chance to gain some experience.

The Rebels have to find a way to cut down on some of the miscues, both in the field and on the base paths. That is crucial as they head to the heart of league play. Sure, it's amateur baseball. But the team - amateur, professional, or church league softball - that makes the fewest mistakes is going to win most of the time.

Wednesday night, that team was a good Southern Miss ballclub. When the Rebels opened the door late after having stopped scoring early, this one was theirs for the taking.

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