Super Saturday

After the Ole Miss baseball team beat Alabama twice on Saturday, Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco was asked how much his ballclub needed those two wins.

“We need them all,” he said of the remaining games for the Rebels. “We played well for 18 innings. We swung it well and got good pitching.”

And the defense was nearly spectacular all day, too.

It was, without a doubt, the best day for Ole Miss baseball in 2015.

The Rebels, now 23-21 overall and 10-10 in Southeastern Conference play, need to stay above .500 so they can qualify for the NCAA Tournament in late May. Saturday’s two wins certainly helped that cause, lifting them two games above that plateau.

Getting to the SEC Tournament at least two games above .500 is important. There are 10 SEC games remaining and two non-conference games left (Mississippi State in Pearl and Arkansas State in Jonesboro).

The focus, however, is now solely on Sunday and a noon game on ESPN. A sweep would do wonders for all things Ole Miss baseball at this point.

It hasn’t been an easy season for anyone associated with the program. After a third place national finish at the College World Series, to come into this weekend’s series at 21-21 overall and 8-10 in SEC play proved it had been difficult. It was the worst record for a Bianco team to this point in his 15 years at Ole Miss.

But from the start on Saturday, after Friday night’s game was rained out, the Rebels had come to play. And good things happened.

First was a 10-2 win, and they followed that up with a 4-0 victory.

Brady Bramlett was as much responsible for the second-game win as anyone. He went 7.1 innings, the longest outing of his collegiate career, and allowed no runs on four hits with nine strikeouts and no walks or free passes of any kind.

The third-year sophomore was not only solid Saturday but has been all season, now with a 5-2 mark.

“His fastball command was terrific today,” Bianco said. “And when he really can locate the fastball on both sides of the plate and then extend the zone a little bit, he’s just so tough.”

Bramlett said he was on for this one, and even brought something new to the table.

“I felt great tonight. My fastball was working. I was throwing a new breaking ball we had been working on in the pen this week. Everything felt great.”

His catcher, Austin Knight, who added a eighth-inning solo home run to make the final score 4-0, said Bramlett was excellent against the Crimson Tide.

“He was really, really good with his fastball command,” Knight said. “They were having trouble doing anything with it.”

Bianco said Bramlett was at the top of his game.

“I thought the curve ball helped him today where he didn’t have to lead everybody off with a fast ball, and he was able to dump some curve balls in there and kind of keep them off balance. And they’re a really good fastball hitting team. He was tremendous.

“His fastball doesn’t have that bigtime velocity," Bianco continued. "But the things you learn are he gets great extension to the plate, the ball’s got great rotation, it explodes at the end, and he locates it so well. He’s done it all year. He misses a lot of bats with his fast ball.”

Bramlett was relieved in the eighth by Scott Weathersby. The fifth-year senior went the rest of the way, but only after he got some insurance in the form of a two-run home run by Sikes Orvis and then Knight’s solo round-tripper.

“When (Weathersby) ran off the field (after the eighth), it was 1-0. I told him I was going to send (closer) Wyatt Short out there if it’s still 1-0,” Bianco said. “But if we get a couple of runs, I’m going to run you back out there.”

So now Short, as well as a lot of other arms, is ready for Sunday baseball and the possibility of a sweep.

Bramlett doesn’t necessarily have the velocity of some bigtime pitchers, but it works for him in a bigtime way.

“I’ve always just been told I have a really heavy fastball,” Bramlett said. “I really don’t know what that means. I just know it gets on hitters faster than a normal fastball does.”

Bramlett said when he turned things over to Weathersby, he knew it was over.

“When I went out and Scott came in, I knew we were going to win,” Bramlett said. “I have all the confidence in the world in Scott.”

It’s an Ole Miss team that is apparently beginning to gain a lot more confidence with each passing game. Another opportunity awaits today on national TV via ESPN.

“This was huge, definitely huge,” Knight said. “Playing two really good games back to back is a big boost for us. It seems like everyone in the lineup is doing something and contributing now. It’s a good time to get hot is all I have to say about that.”

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