Winning Weekend

Ole Miss left Baton Rouge last weekend winning one of three games from No. 1 ranked LSU. But the one that they won was quite a test for a team trying to find its way. The 14-inning Rebel victory was key for this team to get to the point that it is now, both from a record standpoint and from a confidence one.

Baseball has several different polls, and the Florida Gators arrived in Oxford ranked No. 1 this weekend. That’s two pretty good back to back foes for the Rebels. But between LSU and Florida was a game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Ole Miss trailed 6-4 going into the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Rebels rallied for a 7-6 win in that last frame on Wednesday afternoon, and they headed into this weekend’s series with the Gators on a bit of a high.

Friday night’s 4-1 win against Florida was arguably the best they have played all season in all phases. Christian Trent and Scott Weathersby were on. The offense did just enough and got a jump start with Florida native J.B. Woodman’s two-run homer setting an early tone. And defensively the Rebels were clean.

Rain was predicted for all day Sunday, so a doubleheader was scheduled for Saturday. In the first game, Brady Bramlett continued his superb pitching this season after recovering from labrum surgery last summer. And in relief Jacob Waguespack and Wyatt Short were solid.

Offensively Ole Miss got a three-run blast over the wall from senior leader Sikes Orvis in the first inning, and just like Woodman had done in the Friday night game helped set a tone in game two.

“Everything felt good,” Bramlett said of his six-inning performance which got him the win. “It was awesome that we got three runs in the first inning (with Orvis’ home run). “

Then some crazy stuff happened in the third inning. Tate Blackman fouled a ball off into his own knee. It was extremely painful by the way he reacted. After Blackman recovered and walked, he moved to second base on an Errol Robinson groundout. Orvis, who had doubled, moved to third.

As Blackman slid into second base and the infielder made a throw toward first, Blackman basically knocked the Gator down with his slide, completely legal according to the umpires. But there was a reaction from the Florida player, and Orvis over at third said something he shouldn’t have. Profanity was used, according to Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, which was the reason given by the umpires for what happened next.

After a long discussion among umpires and later coaches, Orvis was ejected. He had to sit the rest of that game and also the next game. But the damage had been done to the Gators offensively, and Florida would lose 5-2 to Ole Miss.

“If anything we got a little bit more amped,” Bramlett said of the Orvis ejection. “I know I did. I went out there with the mindset of it’s time to shut them down to keep the momentum going our way.”

Freshman Will Golsan was 3-for-5 with a RBI in the win.

“I’ve just been sticking to my approach, seeing balls I could hit, and trying to get the ball into play,” Golsan said.

Game three continues to be a struggle for Ole Miss from the mound. With certain weekend starter Sean Johnson out for the year with Tommy John surgery – he never got to start on a weekend because of the injury – and Sam Smith not being as effective in Sunday starts, the Rebels continue to search for the right guy.

The search this game landed freshman Will Stokes in the starting position. The coaches like Stokes’ pitching a lot, and he was one of the heroes of the long game against LSU that the Rebels won as he came in late to pitch.

But his game three start against Florida was ineffective, and the Rebels fell behind early. Stokes went 2.2 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout.

“I couldn’t make the pitches when I needed to, and I’m pretty down about that,” Stokes said. “I’ll just learn from it and try to do better next time. I was leaving some of them up. My velocity wasn’t normal. My slider wasn’t normal. It’ll be better next time.”

“It was just one of those games that it wasn’t his day,” Bianco said of Stokes. “Normally he fills it up. He just didn’t have it today in his first college start. You face the No. 1 team in the country that had been held down the last two games, it was a tough chore for him. So it wasn’t a good combination not pitching well and facing a team that was ready to swing.”

After that, Drake Robison, John Wesley Ray, Sam Smith, and Mitchel Babb battled but couldn’t stop the Gator offense. Down 8-1, Ole Miss scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth. But this one had, for the most part, been over for a while, barring what was not an extended comeback for the Rebels.

So they move on, now at 13-10 overall and 3-3 in the Southeastern Conference, at No. 8 in the most updated RPI totals late on Saturday night.

They host UAB in a doubleheader beginning at 11 a.m. Tuesday. They’ll continue to be looking to improve, all the while trying to find that right Sunday starter as March heads toward April. An Ole Miss baseball team that struggled earlier is apparently beginning to find its way.

“It’s a little hard to have any kind of perspective now after you just lost,” Bianco said following game three. “But I’m proud we won two out of three. Once again we kind of put ourselves behind the eight ball (in game three), and all of a sudden we’re down early. But I’m proud of the way we played overall for the weekend against a very, very good Florida team. We’re getting better, and I think we’ve shown that.”

“This was a great weekend for us,” said Bramlett after his first home SEC start. “We grew up a lot this weekend. We’re finding our character and we’re starting to roll with it.”

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