It was more of the same at Swayze Field Saturday, but in a way it was something new. With the 2-1 MSU win in the finale, Ole Miss was swept by Mississippi State in baseball for the first time since 2003. But for three games and for several other games this season, the Rebels look like who they apparently have become. Or have they?
They actually had 11 hits in the Friday game and only four in the Saturday game. But at least two and maybe more were robbed by MSU defenders or the baseball gods, whomever and wherever they may be.
Mainly it’s on offense that Ole Miss is struggling. But the Rebels seemed to take at least some positives from Saturday that perhaps – perhaps- things will get better in the offense department.
The pitching has been good enough if there was additional offensive help. The defense has been good enough if there was additional offensive help.
As it is, there has been little offensive production. Maybe that is changing. For Ole Miss to have any success the rest of the way, it has to. It’s been proven already that pitching and defense - although that’s what many say wins championships - isn’t going to be enough this time around for Ole Miss to succeed, given what we’ve seen.
The stats are there. Search them if you wish. Perhaps they will give you answers. But it is the win-loss column that has become uglier as the calendar turns to April, and that is mainly all you need to know. The Rebels started the season 7-0 and now stand 16-12. They got a series win against Vanderbilt to begin the Southeastern Conference season at 2-1. Now they're 3-6.
Ole Miss had a chance as late as the bottom of the ninth inning in the finale. But as close as most of the losses have been lately, that’s not all that unusual either for this team. The captains Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles each singled - the Rebs had only two hits prior in the contest – then Nick Fortes successfully sac bunted them to third. And he was almost safe to load the bases with no outs. But as it was at that point, one away and two in scoring position.
Then an intentional walk of Thomas Dillard, a Cole Zabowski popup foul to third, and Tim Rowe came up to bat. A hard-hit ball that State star Brent Rooker got at first base for the final out was the way the weekend ended.
Next up for the Rebels? Southern Mississippi at Pearl. Then a home series against Alabama. They need more production. They need wins.
Rebel pinch hitter Tim Rowe
On his last at-bat Saturday: “Rooker made a great play. I was hoping it would get through. He did an outstanding job fielding that ball. When I was up to bat I wanted to settle down. At first I took a couple of hacks, and I was thinking hurry up and hit a home run and try to win the ballgame. But I had two strikes, and I tried to relax and put the ball in play.” On the team’s approach with what is going on and a lot of balls right at defenders: “We’re hitting the ball well, I believe. We’re waiting until the baseball gods help us out and we find those holes.”
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco
On Ryan Rollison’s first SEC start: “He was terrific, and he’s been really good all year long in different roles. Proud of the way he’s handled it and performed. Today, and we’ve seen it and not just on our team, it’s a different deal pitching on the weekend in front of 11,000 and the team has already lost two games. You need a good performance out of him and he delivered.” On Will Ethridge’s performance in relief:“Proud of Will, especially coming off a couple of not so good outings. He enabled us to get to the ninth inning and kept the score intact.” On Dallas Woolfolk closing it out: “Awesome and continues, regardless of what happens in the game, to pitch well. He’s selfless. He’s been out there a lot. He just keeps grabbing the ball and putting up zeroes.” On what the team takes from this weekend moving forward after getting swept at home: “For a lot of guys this is the first time this has ever happened to them, especially here. We have to stick together. We are good. We can pitch. We can play defense. And I think we can hit. But we’ve got to continue to stick together and believe and not feel sorry for ourselves, realizing there’s a lot of season left and continue to play hard and good things will happen.”