James McArthur (Petre Thomas)

McArthur struggles, Rebels fall to Aggies

James McArthur struggled in the early innings for the second weekend in a row, and it put the Rebels in an early hole against Texas A&M's Brigham Hill.

Spirit's Take

The Aggies plated three runs in the opening inning and three more in the third. McArthur elevated fastballs and was punished for it. It is the third time in four starts he's struggled, and has allowed 25 runs in his last five starts. 

Hill is 7-3 with a 2.62 ERA, and is one of the SEC's elite arms. He was spotted a 6-1 lead through three innings, which is not a productive formula in a game that Ole Miss desperately needed to win. The Rebels did have 11 hits on the night and tried to keep pace with Texas A&M, cutting it to a 7-4 game in the fifth, but A&M proceeded to score in each of the last five innings and blew the game open at 12-4. Ole Miss would add one in the ninth. 

Will Golsan was 3-4 with an RBI and Nick Fortes had a pair of hits.

Boiled down to its core, this game was a reflection of the deteriorating starting pitching that has faltered over the last three weeks. Aside from a gem of an outing on Thursday night at Arkansas a couple of weeks ago, McArthur has been peppered in four of his last five starts. His command has slipped and he repeatedly gets punished for leaving balls up in the zone. A grand slam a week ago blew the game open at Florida, home runs from Texas A&M's Logan Foster and Braden Shewmake helped keep the lead out of reach.

McArthur allowed seven runs on as many hits in five innings on this night, and unlike a week ago when a single inning doomed him, Texas A&M was all over him from the start and did not relent.

"This was different than last week," head coach Mike Bianco said. "Last week was just one inning, and was really as good in the first three innings and as dominant last week as I have ever seen him. Last week it just kind it just kind of fell apart on him. He had a great at bat, walked a run in and gave up a grand slam and just kind of fell apart from there. Tonight, it was just their night. We will look back at the tape and try to see more if it was location or just the pitches."

McArthur was not good with his location again, and particularly struggled to get his breaking ball over the plate. Five different Aggie hitters had multi-hit games, and Foster had three of his own.

"Location-wise I am sure he missed some pitches, but they were just really, really good tonight," Bianco said.

Roth came on in relief of McArthur and gave up four runs in two innings as the game spiraled out of control, two were unearned. Andy Pagnozzi followed and Texas A&M settled on 12 runs on 14 hits.

Offensively, Ole Miss actually faired well against Hill. It smacked eight hits and plated four runs off of him, and chased him after 4.1 innings of work. Hill has great off speed stuff, but the Rebels stayed patient at the plate and produced enough runs to give themselves a chance to win on Friday nights in the SEC, just not on this night. 

"With the open week because of final exams, I thought Coach Clement did a great job. I thought we had a great approach against Hill," Bianco said. "A guy that I thought would give us fits with the change up, but our guys were able to do a good job for the most part laying off some change ups in the dirt, getting some good swings."

Ole Miss stacked runners on base, and had its fair share of opportunities, but grounded into three costly double plays that killed any sort of rally that could have produced momentum.

"We hit into three. We had three different opportunities where we scored runs, if we could have gotten a better at bat, but end up hitting into a double play," Bianco said. "It is hard to complain about the offense on a night like tonight where you give up 12 runs, but I thought we had a good approach and swung it really well."

This loss really puts this team in a tough position in terms of the NCAA Tournament. It will need at least 14 conference wins to have a realistic shot to earn a bid, meaning that will now require a 3-2 finish down the stretch with two more games against the Aggies before three at Auburn to end the year. Ryan Rolison will be on the hill for the Rebels tomorrow as they try to even up the series. 

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