Ole Miss lost to Tennessee 6-3 Saturday as for the third straight game the Rebels fell behind 3-0. The previous two times – against Memphis Tuesday and Tennessee Friday – they came back to win.
Not this time.
Ole Miss cut into the lead and trailed only 3-1 after four innings. But continued defensive miscues and pitching that didn’t come through allowed UT to expand its lead to 6-1 in the sixth before Ole Miss tacked on a couple of runs after that.
Dependable starter Brady Bramlett got the loss and fell to 4-2 this season. His 5.1 innings allowing four runs, three of them earned, on seven hits with six strikeouts and two walks was only part of the Rebels’ story on this day. But a major part.
“It wasn’t his best day,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco after the Rebels fell to 16-15 overall and 5-6 in Southeastern Conference play. “But certainly with three errors and three unearned runs, it’s hard to win in our league. Today mirrored a lot of our losses.”
Indeed it did. The Rebels looked more like they did during many of those 15 losses than those 16 wins.
Tennessee went up 1-0 in the top of the first inning. In the bottom of the first, the Rebels didn’t get a run and left the bases loaded. It moved on from there and didn’t improve.
The Vols had a chance to blow the game open in the fourth inning but left two stranded after scoring a run. As it was the Rebels didn’t get much going to compete on this day.
“Certainly we have to score more than three runs,” Bianco said. “I thought early against (UT starter Bret) Marks, we had some really good at-bats. Then as the innings went on, there were more gaps in between the good at-bats. A good at-bat, then a bad at-bat. That looks more like a lot of our losses this season where we were leaving guys on.”
Indeed the past couple of games a Rebel team that had struggled offensively much of the season appeared to be fighting its way out of those situations. A lot of hits – 13 in each of the wins earlier this week against Memphis and Tennessee – and much of the run production coming with two outs.
“We’ve been so good the last two games, we’ve been able to put a lot of at-bats together and hit with runners on base,” said Bianco, whose Rebels only got seven hits Saturday.
Ole Miss had its chances to make some things happen offensively, but in some cases it was a matter of baseball happening. Bianco recalled a few situations.
“(Colby) Bortles and (J.B.) Woodman crushed two balls. And (Tennessee) made great plays. If some of those balls drop in, it’s different in the sense that we score a few more runs. But we’ve got to be better than that.”
Austin Knight said the Rebels were swinging it well early. But again baseball happened, the Rebels hit the ball at them several times, UT made some defensive plays, and Ole Miss couldn’t produce.
“You obviously want to find barrels as often as possible. It was good to see us get good swings early, and I wish it would have continued throughout the game,” he said.
Knight, who caught, also mentioned Bramlett wasn’t at his best.
“Brady didn’t have his normal stuff today. But he competed,” he said. “He really did. But they took advantage of a couple of mistakes he made, and I think that’s the story of the ballgame.”
Bramlett said it simply wasn’t his game.
“I struggled from the beginning locating, honestly,” he said. “It was a little of everything today. Just an off day.”
Bianco said there have been too many of those for his team this season. It remains a mystery, he said, as to why that’s the case, now 31 games in.
“I wish I knew that answer. I don’t have that one,” he said.
Tennessee improved to 13-14 and 3-8.
Knight said it’s up to Ole Miss to be ready to play on Sunday afternoon if they want to have a chance to win this important series.
“We have to come out with a lot of energy and focus tomorrow,” the senior said. “(Freshman pitcher) Will Stokes will go out there and compete his tail off. We’ve got to play an all-around good game tomorrow to beat a good Tennessee team.”
First pitch is set for 1:30 p.m.
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