By: Brian Scott Rippee
But the Rebels came back down to earth on the mound on Saturday as Vanderbilt plated four runs off of sophomore RHP Brady Feigl - who was the first starter to allow a run in 52.1 innings - in a 6-2 win that evened the series 1-1 on Saturday.
"I thought it was similar to (Ole Miss Friday night starter David) Parkinson," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "I was proud of the way he hung in there, but today didn't attack the strike zone Mike Bianco said. "I think three innings in a row we had two walks to leadoff the inning and then a 1-0 base hit. With these guys you have to get the leadoff guy."
The stretch Bianco is referring to was the second through fourth innings. Feigl allowed the leadoff man on in all three. He was able to get around them in the first two, but Vanderbilt punished him in the fourth in the form of a Will Toffey two-run home run to right and then a towering solo home run from Stephen Scott one batter later.
Feigl wasn't at his best on Saturday by any means. He threw 84 pitches and only 52 were strikes. But an Ole Miss offensive that has seemingly vanished over the last nine games didn't bail him out either.
"We're really confident," Ryan Olenek said. "They threw some really good arms. Obviously, some classic Vanderbilt arms. We are confident that we were going to get some really good swings off. We just couldn't really piece it together today."
In their defense, today wasn't going to be the easiest day for Ole Miss to hit with Patrick Raby and his electric fastball standing on the hill for the Commodores. He gave the Rebels a healthy diet of that heavy heater and there wasn't much Ole Miss could do with it.
"He's just a different type of fastball," sophomore IF/OF Ryan Olenek said. "If you remember (former Ole Miss pitcher Brady) Bramlett from last year, his revolutions were just off the charts. He didn't throw it that hard but it seemed harder than it was. He mixed it up well, but there a lot of fastballs to get ahead."
Bianco has tweaked his lineup over this recent stretch to try to find a formula for some offense, and did so again on Saturday. He moved Colby Bortles to first base, which allowed him to keep Kyle Watson and Bryan Seamster in the lineup by sliding Watson to third and letting Seamster man left field, which puts a left-handed bat in an extremely righty-heavy lineup. But it didn't amount to much of a spark on this day. Bortles was 0-4 and is now just 12-55 on the season. Watson was the only one that recorded a hit, with a base knock in the ninth inning.
Ole Miss' best chance for offense came in Vanderbilt starter Patrick Raby's sixth and final inning. A Will Golsan leadoff double was followed by Olenek being hit on his left hand near the knob of the bat. Originally, he wasn't awarded first base as the umpire thought it hit the bat despite Olenek's hand bleeding. But after some coaxing from Bianco and a lengthy discussion he was awarded first base.
Olenek said after that his hand hurt, and it looked visibly swollen. He will have it examined further by the medical staff and will be evaluated from there. He did stay in the game.
The sequence gave the Rebels first and second with no one out and a trip through the heart of their order looming as Raby's pitch count rose. But Ole Miss thwarted its own momentum with a base running snafu that came on a base hit to left from Tate Blackman. Golsan was thrown out easily at home on a questionable send, and Olenek was then gunned out trying for third. Blackman's base hit resulted in zero runs and two outs.
The ball was hit hard to Scott - who isn't Vanderbilt's every day left fielder - but he easily nailed Golsan at the plate.
"It was a tough one," Bianco said. "It was tough call for Coach Clement. You look where he fielded it, it got to him in a hurry, but he was way back there. Terrific throw for a guy that doesn't play regularly there and then a base running error by us to really squelch out the rally by going to third base. When you're having trouble chaining it together, you can't make mistakes like that."
Vanderbilt's win evened the series and again sent Ole Miss (13-6, 1-1 SEC) looking for solutions at the plate.
Having four freshmen hitters in the lineup will often warrant some cold spells. But the Rebels will need to figure it out because they won't be able to pitch their way past every team in this league. Vanderbilt has one of the best pitching staffs in the country, and is particularly tough on a right-handed lineup. This weekend was likely a perfect storm in terms of the Rebels' offensive struggles.
But at some point, sooner than later, you'd like to see the bats wake up.
"Certainly it has been very publicized by everybody that we've struggled offensively," Bianco said. "But I think we are starting to collectively do better. But it is tough to see against a pitching staff like this."