Mike Bianco made no bones about it. There was very little positive that his 18th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels could take from a 4-1 loss to Illinois-Chicago Friday night. So he picked one: reliever Stoney Stone.
"The only real bright spot. Stoney came in and did what you ask a guy to do out of the bullpen and that's to stop the other team, put some zeroes up and give your team an opportunity. Certainly he did that for us."
Stone, the senior RHP, went three and two-thirds innings, allowing no runs on one hit, striking out three while walking none.
"I just came in and did what I was supposed to do - fill up the zone and get outs," Stone said.
As for the rest of the team, Bianco said there wasn't a lot to boast about.
"It looked early like it was going to be a great night, but to not put them away is disappointing," he said as the Rebels fell to 6-3 on the season, the same record as last year's record-setting team had after nine games. "It was a lot like Tuesday. It looked like we were going to put Arkansas State away early and then their starting pitcher stays out there for a long time. Then tonight the same thing. It looked like we would have control of the game early offensively, but after that nothing. Credit them. They played the game and did what you're supposed to do. But I'm really disappointed in our effort."
After the Flames got nothing off starter Tommy Baumgardner in the top of the first, the Rebels started hot with singles by Alex Presley and C.J. Ketchum to appear to set the offensive tone. Presley had gone to third on Ketchum's hit, but then Chris Coghlan hit into a double play. Although Presley scored, some of the early momentum was taken away. Mark Wright then struck out to end the inning. It was the junior outfielder's 10th strikeout in the six games he's played this season.
From that point on Ole Miss put up zeroes across the scoreboard against four Flames pitchers, including starter Zach Peterson (junior RHP), now 1-1 on the season.
"It was a lack of us doing anything at the plate tonight," said team captain Justin Henry, who went 2-for-4 in the contest. "I'm not really sure what is going on with us right now. We sure need to hurry up and figure it out. Hitting is contagious and also not hitting is contagious. Some of us older guys have to step up and bust through. Right now we're not doing anything much at the plate."
UIC tied the game in the top of the third inning, scored two runs in the top of the fifth and had runners on first and third with one out in the top of the sixth when Stone came in for Baumgardner. UIC squeezed home the runner from third - Ted Rosinski - as Nick Rainwater sac bunted to the pitcher for a 4-1 UIC lead. Although Stone had entered the game, the run was attributed to Baumgardner, and Stone took care of business the rest of the way.
"I felt fine. I have no excuses," said Baumgardner, who went five and a third innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits including four strikeouts and four walks, falling to 2-1 on the season. "I just went out there and didn't do what I had to do for our team to win. I just didn't do my job."
But it was the Rebel bats that also didn't do their jobs as Ole Miss had only seven hits to UIC's eight. Rebel senior first baseman C.J. Ketchum was the only other Rebel with more than one hit as he, like Henry, went 2-for-4.
Stone said the Rebels, who had two errors as did UIC, have to rally around each other for the team to really click, and he feels this squad is close to doing that.
"We're a team and everybody feeds off everybody else," he said. "What happens on defense affects what happens on offense and also the other way around. We just have to put it all together. We're not far from it. We'll get it done."
Bianco said there can't be many more outputs like this one, however.
"Tonight we just seemed to lose all our aggression and really just sat back and didn't compete," the sixth-year Rebel head coach said. "That's the most disappointing thing to me. We just looked real bad tonight."
Ole Miss will send freshman RHP Cody Satterwhite (2-0, 4.00 ERA) to the mound Saturday for the 1:30 p.m. contest.
On Sunday at 1:30 p.m., the Rebels will start freshman RHP Lance Lynn (0-0, 3.24 ERA). It will be Lynn's first start as a collegian.
Rebs have little 'O' vs. Illinois-Chicago
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