This team competed well all weekend, and stood tall in some pressure situations, but this series was defined by defense and Ole Miss' defense let it down and aided in spoiling a gutsy outing from freshman left-hander Ryan Rolison.
The Rebels made seven errors at Alex Box Stadium for the weekend, including two early ones on Sunday that proved to be the difference in the game. One of them came from left fielder Bryan Seamster that bobbled a ball that to turned a single into two bases, and resulted in a run a couple of batters later on a play that Rolison induced a ground ball to get out of a jam, but Blackman bobbled it and allowed a run to cross to give LSU an early 1-0 advantage in the second.
Blackman made up for it almost immediately with his third solo home run of the weekend in the top half of the third that continued his assault on LSU pitching. But LSU quickly regained a 2-1 lead in the bottom half of the inning when Rolison made his lone mistake of the day by way of a hanging breaking ball that Greg Deichmann deposited into the right field bleachers for his team leading 12th home run of the year.
To compound Ole Miss' defensive miscues, LSU flashed the leather on multiple occasions in important moments. Cole Freeman robbed multiple base hits at second base that would have given the Rebels some momentum. He a caught hard line drive in the 6th inning off the bat of Will Golsan and subsequently doubled off Grae Kessinger at third base, spoiling a golden chance for Ole Miss to tie what was a 2-1 game at the time.
Tim Rowe misplayed a fly ball in bottom half of the sixth inning that was generously ruled a double, and resulted in an insurance run for the Tigers. It is hard enough as it is to win a series in this league, especially against a top ten team in Alex Box Stadium. Making multiple errors in all three games is not a recipe to achieve that. Bianco said after the game that it is no secret that defense was the difference in this series. That proved true down to the last out. Ole Miss had the tying run on second base in the form of Tim Rowe and Seamster in the batter's box.
He hit a flare that appeared as if would drop for a hit but was gobbled up by a leaping Cole Freeman that saved a run and ended the ball game. Ole Miss had the tying run on second base in each of the last three innings, and could not scrape together a two-out hit to push it across. Seamster was the closest as he nearly eluded a diving Freeman.
This team competed well this weekend, and was literally inches away from taking two games. Rolison has given the back end of the rotation stability, which is something that Bianco hasn't had the luxury of the last two years. He pitched well today, surrendering two runs and an unearned runs on six hits and didn't walk a hitter. He's got a bright future in the program and will be a viable asset in more rubber games to come this year. Ole Miss hasn't gotten a ton of breaks in late innings this season, and hasn't helped itself out defensively either.
But it would be hard to deny that team is taking steps forward. It sits at 22-14 (7-8) at the halfway point in SEC play. There is a lot of season left, and Bianco said after the game that he believes this team is playing its best baseball of the season despite it not showing up in the form of two wins this weekend. Nothing is certain, but signs are pointing towards a stronger finish over the last half of conference play than the way it started.
On how team competed: "There are no moral victories, but proud of the way we played. That is the thing that you can control. It certainly wasn't our cleanest game but they did a few more things than we did to win the game. They played really well. That is what it comes down to."
On defense being the difference in the series: "It's no secret. We made two errors and they scored a run in one inning. You can sit there and point the finger, but the finger can be pointed in a lot of different directions. Me calling pitches or Ryan maybe not making a pitch or us not getting guys in from second base. That is the obvious answer, but it is more than that."
On Ryan Rolison: "He's been terrific. I am proud of the way he pitched as a freshman. Not much more you can ask for. He was really good and a tough place to play and a tough place to pitch against a good lineup."
On the team going 2-2: "We are playing better baseball. We are probably the best baseball we have played all year. Unfortunately we lost a couple of games here. We need to continue to play like did this week."
On his outing: "My objective was to find the off speed early and I think I did that against their aggressive hitters."
On his stuff: "Change up was working, breaking ball was working. I hung a couple that cost me a couple of runs but other than that I felt good."
On bringing stability to rotation: "I think there is always room for improvement. I think I have done pretty well, but I think I could always get better."
On what this team can take away from this: "Coming into a stadium like this with the fans that LSU has, it is always a difficult environment to play in. But I am really proud of the way this team competed and I think that if we keep this same mentality and this same competitiveness throughout the rest of the season I think we are going to win more baseball games."
On his defense behind the plate: "I thought I played pretty well defensively. I just try to do everything I can behind the plate to prevent runs from scoring."
On Rolison: "He pitched really well. They got some balls to fall but they were not bad pitches at all. He threw the ball into the strike zone and had good stuff. Usually pitching like that you are going to get a win."
Will Stokes pitched 1.2 innings of scorless and hitless relief. He's returned to form after struggling through the middle part of this season, and will be a welcomed asset to a bullpen with a lot of flexibility.