By: Jeff Roberson
Did we see that already from this Ole Miss team? I’m willing to say we saw some of that from the No. 21 Rebels with their two of three victories against second-ranked Louisville.
Sure, it’s February, so let the clichés begin. They all count the same. They count as one win or one loss in late winter just like they do three months from now. This one’s over and now it’s on to a home game against Memphis and a road trip to Coastal Carolina for three tournament games. And on and on. Say what you will.
What this Sunday finale was mainly about was winning, yes, but also about seeing what this team is made of. We media get to see a bit more of that than you. We all watched David Parkinson come in for Sean Johnson, who pitched masterfully today, and step right in to get the job done. The junior left-hander inherited a one on, one out situation in the sixth and finished the Cards off that inning. Then in the seventh more of the same.
What you didn’t get to see was Parkinson’s confidence afterward in how he told us what happened. Basically a matter of fact demeanor of “I just went out and did my job.” That he did, and that also was what his teammates did all weekend.
“When I went out there, I just wanted to throw strikes and let my defense work,” Parkinson said. “A win’s a win. We just battled. You just gotta make pitches.”
His demeanor was exactly what you need from a pitcher who comes into the game in a tough situation. We hadn’t seen much of Parkinson this season. We will more now and in those type situations.
And Wyatt Short getting two saves, now three of them on the young season. There have been a few pitchers here that whenever they got the ball in that situation, you always felt good about it. That’s what Short has become for this program.
“Having three pitches,” said Will Golsan about what makes Short so special. “His changeup, slider, and fastball. Most importantly his fastball, just filling up the zone and competing up there.”
Golsan, the sophomore first baseman, launched his first homer as a Rebel. It was in the sixth and gave Ole Miss that all-important two-run cushion which, in a game like this against an opponent like this, is huge.
“I had been hitting a few balls hard, and it was good to finally get one over their heads,” he said. “I jogged off and was like ‘Man, please get out of here.’ It was a good feeling.”
In the three-run third inning, it was freshman Ryan Olenek, the DH in this one, who got things going with a base hit. When the inning was over, Ole Miss led 3-2 and never relinquished the lead.
There’s some of that growing up again. And something the fans had been waiting to see.
“Ryan Olenek, true freshmen, gets a big base hit to right field in the third, and for the first time all weekend really gets the crowd into it,” Mike Bianco said. “We were able to do some things on the bases, and we started to look a little more like ourselves offensively.”
So throw out Saturday. That stud player Brendan McKay pitched lights out on the mound, and the Rebels were shutout.
And the Ole Miss defense on Saturday with three errors? “That’s not us,” said Bianco.
Friday was a 6-5 win. Saturday a 4-0 loss. Sunday was a test to see what this Rebel team is made of, and we saw it.
Down 2-0 early, to win this Sunday game was a statement. The Rebs were not happy with one win against a team that was favored. They only had winning the series on their minds in the finale.
The Rebels, now 6-1, know they’re only seven games in with 50-plus to go. But the last weekend of February told us a lot about this team right now and what we might see in the next three months.
“A great test for us,” Golsan said of winning two of three from the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Cardinals, who fell to 5-2. “To come out here and compete with them was great. They’re a great ballclub.”
Heading into March, what does that say about this year’s version of the Ole Miss Rebels?
“Anytime you play really good competition and get tested like this, you grow up a little bit, and that’s the good and the bad,” Bianco said. “Hopefully we’ll take a lot away from this weekend.”