Work To Do

Mike Bianco has mentioned several times already this season one of his concerns is his team getting off the field defensively and preventing the big inning.

That comes with better pitching performances, along with defensive effectiveness. Those concerns were never more evident than Sunday in a 16-4 loss to Stetson.

After taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Rebels set the table a couple of times early in the game with bases loaded to be able to extend that advantage. But the one-run lead only held up until the top of the fourth inning.

That’s when Ole Miss starter Sam Smith lost control of things and Stetson scored six runs. Smith pitched well in the first three innings but fell off the map in the fourth, making it through three and two-thirds and leaving a bit of a mess for the relievers. His final line was five runs, all earned, on three hits with a strikeout and two walks.

Stetson had already claimed a 2-1 lead when Drake Robison entered the game for Smith. The Hatters would score six runs that inning and follow that up with four more runs in the fifth and six more in the eighth.

“Certainly there have been some good things happen so far this season. But one of the biggest problems is what just happened today. We have trouble getting off the field and giving up the big inning,” Bianco said after his team slipped to 8-6 on the year. “In three innings they scored 16 runs. A six, a six, and a four. That’s hard to do.”

And surprising, really, considering this was Stetson and not Louisville or LSU, the Rebels’ next two opponents. Teams often lose a game in a weekend series no matter the opponent. But not normally by 16-4 counts.

Smith, Robison, John Wesley Ray, Matt Denny, Mitchel Babb, Scott Ashford, and Scott Weathersby all took the mound. And while some of them slowed things down, the Rebel offense never was able to recover from such a deficit.

“We had some opportunities early to bust the game open,” Bianco said. “We had the bases loaded a couple of times. We’re just not very efficient. Bases loaded and one out or bases loaded and no outs, and we get one run out of it.”

There were also three errors on the day. Bottom line. These Rebels have work to do.

“Baseball’s a funny game. Sometimes you win a one-run ballgame, and sometimes you lose one. Sometimes you kill (a team) and sometimes you get killed," said senior Sikes Orvis. "You play a lot of games, and you have to be able to bounce back. We've got to get ready to go again.”

Smith has 40 starts in his career, the most in the Southeastern Conference this season for a pitcher. He’s had ups and downs, and often has only gone five or six innings. But Sunday was a quicker fall than most of his starts, it seemed.

“He just kind of lost it there,” Bianco said of the right-handed senior. “I didn’t think his command was great, but he had a lot of sink on his ball today. He made it look easy through the first three innings. After that, he just kind of lost it. He couldn’t get back in there. He couldn’t make any pitches after that and it just kind of snowballed.”

Bianco said he got a lot of pitchers into the game on Sunday, not because the score was out of hand but because he needs those guys to step up and perform.

“Today we pitched some guys who haven’t pitched yet, or haven’t pitched much,” he said. “We have to do that. It wasn’t conceding the game. You can’t just throw Scott Weathersby or Wyatt Short every day.

“We need a couple more parts to it,” he continued about his pitchers. “We don’t need much more, but we need more. We’ve got to figure it out.”

Louisville and LSU, both on the road, await.

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