By: Jeff Roberson
Wyatt Short had started and had gotten into some trouble in the top of the fifth inning. A 4-0 UM lead turned into a 4-3 situation with the Razorbacks threatening. But Fayetteville, Ark., freshman Rebel pitcher Andy Pagnozzi came in, got a couple of strikeouts, and sent things to the bottom of the frame.
Ole Miss came back in the bottom of the fifth to score two runs to stretch the lead back out to 6-3.
The Rebels found themselves in a similar situation in the seventh. Arkansas pulled to within one again at 6-5, and in came Chad Smith, now in a relief role from a starting role. And, like Pagnozzi had done, he closed the door.
Moments later the Rebels stretched the lead back out to three runs at 8-5 in the bottom of the seventh.
In the ninth, a similar situation once again. This time when Smith gave up a two-run homer, it was Will Stokes who came in with one out in the ninth and the bases clear to get things done and preserve the one-run win.
The Rebels had a pitching rotation adjustment heading into a weekend series they needed to win badly. So what did they do against Arkansas? Swept the Razorbacks to get back into the race.
Now 25-7 overall, with a national RPI at No. 4 by late afternoon Sunday, and at 6-6 in Southeastern Conference play, the Rebels are back in the hunt for all their goals for the preseason.
“It was a tough day to pitch with the wind gushing out the way it is,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “Wyatt did what makes him real good, and that’s when it’s not going well, you can still make a pitch to get you out of the inning. There were some innings that looked like they were going to get away from him. He’s able to reach down and make a pitch. He showed what a great competitor he is.”
“Honestly I wasn’t feeling my best today,” Short said. “But I made some pitches and guys made some plays behind me, and I’m thankful for that.”
Sometimes that feeling just happens for a pitcher. Some days are just not their day. Short said that was the case Sunday, but the team was able to get things done to complete the sweep.
“My arm just wasn’t feeling the best,” he said. “But Coach (Bianco) stuck in there with me, and so did the team. And it’s always good when the offense comes through for you.”
Short said he found out after the late Saturday night game that he was going to start. He knew earlier in the week it was a possibility.
“Honestly I wasn’t expecting it,” Short said of getting the nod. “I found out (Saturday) night. Did I sleep any? Not much.”
He went 4.1 innings Sunday, allowing three runs, only two earned, on six hits with two walks and a strikeout. After that the bullpen troops – or bullpenners Pagnozzi, Smith and Stokes on this day – got the job done as well.
“This was a big weekend for us,” said Will Golsan, who was 2-for-4 with four RBI on the day. “Just to get back in the SEC, three wins was huge for us.”
It’s all been a continuation of recent games. Offensively the Rebels were impressive this weekend, with 39 hits and 29 runs.
It was all too much for an Arkansas team that fell to 20-12 overall and 4-8 in league play.
“I think all the hitting was good today,” Bianco said. “We looked like we have the last four or five games. We’ve really swung it well. We rebounded after a five-game stretch there, and we’ve played well since.
“Proud of (hitting coach Mike) Clement,” Bianco continued. “Sometimes you’ve got to stay the course and you have to get back to who you are. It’s baseball and hitting comes and goes at times. It’s an older lineup that was able to bounce back.”
Bianco said they will continue to evaluate the pitching rotation this week.
“I don’t think we were great, but we pitched well enough to win,” he said. “This weekend was about offense. One of the things we have to figure out going forward is who the starters (on the mound) are. When you start taking your closer and some other guys who pitch a lot, and you start moving them, then somebody in the bullpen has to step up and take those roles. Different roles from different guys.”
It worked this weekend. On to Alabama.
Next up, however, Southern Mississippi in Oxford Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.