Scoring enough runs in some games, staying away from allowing the big inning, and winning close games have all been some of the glaring situations that have Ole Miss off to a start that it needs to turn around soon.
The schedule doesn’t get easier. After this weekend’s three games against Stetson, there’s a trip to Louisville for two midweek games and the Southeastern Conference opening weekend at LSU after that.
There’s been a learning curve for some new players, along with a difficult schedule, and basically having to figure out, due to weather, if most of the games were going to be played at all.
To say the least, it’s been an abnormal first three weeks.
“There are a lot of new guys in the lineup to get used to the whole flow of things, how we do things out here, the normal gameday routine,” said senior Sikes Orvis. “The biggest thing is consistency. We’ve got to do a better job of stringing bats together. We’ve got to do a better job defensively on the field. Pitchers need to work on staying out of the big innings. There’s just a lot of things we can take care of, and I think we’ll be a very good ballteam.”
Ole Miss left Orlando last weekend with two losses to UCF in three games but its RPI, according to Warren Nolan.com, was No. 1 in the country. And the Rebels’ strength of schedule was No. 2.
But this week’s activity, including Ole Miss’ 5-1 loss at Southern Mississippi, dropped the Rebels all the way to No. 23 in the RPI and with a strength of schedule of No. 11.
That all changes from not only week to week but daily as teams win and lose. But the Rebels need victories – three of them – against Stetson to get a lot of things headed back in the right direction.
“We’ve just got to stay together, believe in each other, and keep believing in the process,” Orvis said. “It works. We’ve proven that. Just do a better job of everybody being tough, having tough and competitive at-bats, being relentless and not giving at-bats away. Put fear in the pitchers and put pressure on the opposing team on offense.”
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said the team has to move forward from here, no matter what’s gone on so far.
“Wednesday (at USM) was a low for this team, because we just looked unconfident at the plate,” he said. “Once again we couldn’t stay out of the big inning on the field. We just didn’t do things to help win the game. And that’s disappointing. So we have to grow up and be tougher. We’ve struggled offensively.
“Too many guys with bad at-bats mixed in during the games. We’ve missed that big hit and getting runs in that breaks a game open,” Bianco continued. “It’s a bad recipe that we’ve given up some big innings and we haven’t had many big innings. The mark of a good team is to put the big inning together and get the other team off the field quickly.”
Orvis, a major part of last season’s College World Series Rebel team, said he understands what it takes for this team to pick things up and move on.
“You lead by example, and I have to keep my composure at all times,” he said. “If the younger guys see me get mad or have bad body language, they think that’s OK. I’ve been making a point of staying positive and keeping the guys up in the dugout. But most of all showing this is no time to panic. We have one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. With so many new guys, there’s a learning curve. Just stick with the process and it will work out for us.”
Last year’s team, including Orvis, had outstanding leadership. Austin Anderson and Will Allen were team co-captains, and there were a lot of other veterans like Auston Bousfield, Preston Overbey, and Chris Ellis who led the way, on and off the field.
Now it’s up to Orvis and the remaining veterans to make sure this team understands what it takes.
“Last year’s team was so good about finding a way to get out of a hole. If we had a bad game or a bad weekend, we’d always bounce back,” Orvis said. “That’s what we are trying to show these guys now - compete, stay positive, control what you can control, and have fun. Just know we’re a talented team and we’re going to win. It will work itself out if we’ll do that.”
* Junior LHP Adam Schaly (2-1) will make his fourth start of the year and is in search of his third consecutive victory.
* In last season’s opening weekend series against Ole Miss, the Hatters struggled offensively, hitting just .163 in the series while scoring just three runs. The Rebels scored 26 runs in the series against Stetson, a total that included hitting six home runs in the series.
* In Tuesday night’s game against Michigan, the Hatters and Wolverines combined to use 13 pitchers. It was the second game this season in which Stetson and the Hatters’ foe combined to use 13 hurlers, as was also the case on opening day against LaSalle.
* Junior Patrick Mazeika shook off his early season slump last week, batting .600 in four games and leading the Hatters to a 3-1 record for the week while capturing A-Sun Player of the Week honors. Mazeika’s award, the second of his career, comes a week after teammate Cory Reid captured the same honor. It is the first time since 2001 that the Hatters have had players named A-Sun Player of the Week in consecutive weeks. That year it was Jeff Christy and Frank Corr who pulled off the back-to-back honors.
* Mazieka changed bats (34” to 33”) and responded by hitting solo home runs in each of the three games against Penn. With four home runs on the year, Mazeika is just one homer shy of doubling his career total of five from his first two years. He currently ranks fifth in the nation in home runs.
* After missing the first three weeks of the season with an injury, junior Evin Lynch made his debut on the mound against Michigan. The 6-8 right-hander worked three innings, allowing two unearned runs on four hits.
* Sophomore Vance Vizcaino comes into play this weekend with a 12-game hitting streak. He is just one game shy of matching the longest streak from the 2014 season, a 13-gamer by Kevin Fagan. If he surpasses Fagan, next up would be a 21-game streak that was posted by Mazeika in 2013.
* Both Vizcaino and senior Garrett Russini have reached base in every game this year for the Hatters.
Back On The Field
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