Ole Miss chased Mississippi State starter Peyton Plumlee in the first. Didn’t matter. The Rebels didn’t score with bases loaded that inning and never got much going offensively all night in a 5-3 loss. With Thursday night’s 4-3 loss, the Bulldogs have claimed the series.
Heading into Saturday’s game, this isn’t where Ole Miss wanted to be. Not at home against the arch-rival in a big series still early in the Southeastern Conference season. Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. contest is big. Make no mistake about that.
With a loss Saturday, which would make the Rebels 3-6 in the league and 16-12 overall, the promise this team showed in February and against Vanderbilt a couple of weeks ago would have quickly subsided. In actuality it already has. So that makes Saturday big for a number of reasons, namely to stay within striking distance of the leaders with 21 SEC games remaining. In other words, there's a lot of season left.
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said his team just hasn’t been itself lately, hasn’t looked itself several games, that the body language isn’t very good. It’s showing up in their performances.
They’re making mistakes, although competing hard appearing to lack in intensity in certain situations, and overall don’t look like the team they did in February nor that many thought they could be.
They got 11 hits but as Bianco pointed out, teams win with less hits as long as runs are scored. Ole Miss this year rarely scores more than three runs. And while the pitching has been good and the defense normally good, the lack of offensive production has been scary bad at times.
Catcher Nick Fortes, mostly this season the midweek starter and backup to Cooper Johnson, drew the start against MSU Friday and was effective. He did well at the plate and behind it.
The Rebels need some others to step up Saturday and get that timely hit this team has been missing. They need to be sharper and play better in all phases. Otherwise they may be in a hole on April 1 they couldn’t have envisioned just a few weeks ago. There is a lot of season left, however.
Catcher Nick Fortes
On staying in a rhythm not playing that often: “Whenever I get the opportunity I try to make the most out of it. It’s all about keeping a positive attitude. I don’t let myself get too down and just be the best teammate I can be. Everything will fall into place after that.” On the challenge of keeping the team moving forward during challenging times: “It’s a long season. We’ve got to stay together. We know anything can happen. We just need to play to the best of our abilities and if we do that, things will start looking up for us.”
Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco
On the opportunities: “We missed the timely hit. We’ve talked about it for weeks. It’s not the amount of hits. You can win with seven or eight if you get them at the right time. We blew a big opportunity in the first inning. Get picked off and strike out with bases loaded. Then a weak ground ball. We don’t get enough good cuts off early in the count to get the extra base hits. We had three extra base hits tonight all with nobody on. The story tonight was certainly the timely hit and big home runs by (MSU). Neither one of them I thought were bad pitches.” On the team’s demeanor and body language: “We don’t look ourselves and haven’t looked ourselves for a couple of weeks. It’s tough. It’s tough not to play well and to lose. Losing kind of sucks the life out of you. They’re trying. They’re pushing forward, and there are bright spots in every game. I thought both teams competed really well. Credit them with doing a little more than we did.” On Brady Feigl who relieved starter David Parkinson in the fifth: “When we moved him to the pen a couple of weeks ago, it was for outings like this, to be dominant and give you a chance. That’s what we saw last year from him out of the bullpen. His stuff can be really, really good.” On Nick Fortes: “Terrific. Three hits, a big double. He was terrific behind the plate, threw a guy out and blocked the ball well.” On starter David Parkinson: “Today he didn’t really have a breaking ball, no curve or slider. That’s unusual. Usually he has one. The changeup was really good and the fast ball was good early.”
OXFORD, Miss. – (Ole Miss SID) In front of more than 11,000 fans Friday night, the No. 19 Ole Miss baseball team broke out the bats to the tune of 11 hits, but the Rebels (16-11, 3-5 SEC) could not find the timely hits needed in a 5-3 setback to Mississippi State at Swayze Field. A pair of homers by the Bulldogs (18-10, 5-3 SEC) proved to be the difference in the rivalry contest.
Nick Fortes and Ryan Olenek both went 3-for-4 at the plate to pace the Rebels offensively. Not only did Fortes record a career high in hits, but he also knocked in two of the team’s three runs and threw out a baserunner. Olenek put together his third three-game of the year, and five other Rebels added singles.
The duo of David Parkinson (4-2) and Brady Feigl pitched all nine innings, combining to strike out 14 and only walking one. Parkinson suffered the loss in 4.2 innings of work but recorded eight strikeouts, one off his personal best. Feigl was superb in a long relief outing, lasting 4.1 frames without giving up a run. The Chesterfield, Missouri, native recorded six strikeouts and did not issue a base on balls.
Cody Brown hit a two-run home run and Brent Rooker added a solo shot to help MSU claim the win. Both Bulldogs, as well as three others, had two hits apiece. Ole Miss was able to force MSU starter Peyton Plumlee out of the game in the first inning, but Jacob Barton (2-0) pitched 3.2 innings out of the bullpen to get his team out of jams and collect the win. Spencer Price (8) earned his second save in as many games.
The first inning lasted 42 minutes but ended without a run. Parkinson battled through long counts to strike out three of the four hitters he faced before the Rebels threatened in the bottom half of the inning. Will Golsan and Olenek both singled, but Golsan was picked off at second during the next at-bat. Consecutive walks loaded the bases, bringing a quick end to Plumlee’s day. Barton entered the game and was able to work MSU out of the inning. With two outs, Cole Zabowski hit a groundball to shortstop, who raced Colby Bortles to second. The bang-bang play didn’t go the Rebels’ way as the game remained 0-0.
Despite the missed opportunity in the opening inning, Ole Miss found the board in the second. Fortes doubled to deep center field before advancing to third on a sac bunt. With the Mississippi State infield playing in for a play at the plate, Grae Kessinger smoked a base hit up the middle to score Fortes.
MSU answered with a run on a pair of hits in the third, but Fortes used his arm to catch the runner trying to swipe third base, closing out the half inning. The Ole Miss catcher proceeded to go to the bat rack to get his team the run back. Two singles set up Fortes for a base hit to right field. Bortles motored around third and slid into home safely, putting the Ole Miss ahead 2-1 through three innings of play.
The game turned in MSU’s favor in the fourth. Brown lined a two-run homer that just cleared the wall in right field, and the Bulldogs added another run to take a 4-2 lead. One inning later, Rooker hit a solo shot to increase the margin, but Fortes smacked his third hit of the game to get another run back for the Rebels. His RBI single up the middle made it a 5-3 contest.
After four straight scoring innings, the rest of the contest turned into the battle of the bullpens. Feigl held the MSU bats in-check to save the Ole Miss arms for the series finale, while the Bulldogs used a trio to hang on for the win. For the second consecutive night, the Rebels threatened in the ninth. Olenek roped a one-out double to the left-center gap, bringing the tying run to the plate. However, Price was able to retire team captains Tate Blackman and Bortles, two of the Rebels’ hottest hitters, to end the game.
Ole Miss will look to salvage the series tomorrow as freshman southpaw Ryan Rolison makes his first career SEC start. First pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. from Swayze Field. The game can be seen on SECN+ and the ESPN app, while the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network will have the audio call.