Raise your hand if you gave up today? No, really put them up. I will admit things looked pretty bleak when Logan Power stepped to the plate with two outs in the ninth, but Ole Miss made it happen.
I can't emphasize how important a game like that is for a team. The Rebels seemed dead in the water, but they came back and failed to settle for simply two out of three. That is the biggest difference between this team so far and the 2007 club. Last season, I watched the sleepwalks last the entire game without the late-inning fire to make a run. Ole Miss is confident right now, and why shouldn't they be?
The week saw the Rebels move to 8-0 with three blowouts and two close games that were in doubt until the final out. We now know Ole Miss can come through in the clutch, and that the team has the capacity to persevere and take home more than just the 15-run whitewashings. Friday night was the game that a lot of teams lose. Mother Nature was acting rudely, and things failed to fall the Rebels' way for most of the contest. But in the end, they found a way. The bloops evened out, Ole Miss supplied the power for a decisive four-run inning to provide the winning margin.
Sunday was a come-from-behind victory, where it would have been easy to lay down in the ninth with two outs But like the No. 2 team in the country should play, Ole Miss played until the end and snatched victory from the Sycamores.. Mostly because of….
Matt Smith's rollercoaster
The talented redshirt freshman walked off the field in agony opening night versus Minnesota and found out Monday that he had torn his UCL and had a decision to make about possibly losing his year. Six days later, he put up possibly the best single-game offensive performance I have ever witnessed from the Swayze Field pressbox. Matt was 5-6, two home runs including the walkoff and a two-run single in the ninth to force extra innings.
Given his emotional situation, it is impossible not to be ecstatic for the guy. He is maybe the nicest player on the team, and you know you will get 100 percent from him each time out. There is a grave injustice or an unbelievable performance I am unaware of if he isn't named SEC Player of the Week tomorrow. Ponder this: After missing the midweek games because his season was in jeopardy, Smith hit 9-13 on the weekend with three home runs, six RBI and four runs scored. Also if being clutch is considered, Smith defines the word.
On a serious note, his game-winning home run struck an Ole Miss student sitting in the leftfield terrace in the head. She appeared to be OK when leaving Swayze Field, and Smith signed the ball for her.
After the game, Smith was sitting in the empty stadium eating dinner. Sports information director Bill Bunting walked by and joked that he could leave and go home. Smith responded by saying he wasn't ready to leave yet. After the day he had, why not? He should enjoy it. On the season, he leads the Rebels with a .647 and is slugging 1.235.
Ranking Watch and Notable Scores
Arizona State and Arizona both swept their competition this week, so the majority of the polls will be extremely similar to last week as far as Ole Miss is concerned. However, Texas dropped a couple games, one to Tennessee, on the weekend, so the Rebels should move to No. 3 in the poll put out by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association.
It was also a good RPI weekend with Minnesota shaking off the flogging by Ole Miss to knock off two ranked opponents in Pepperdine and Tulane. On Friday, the Gophers blew a two-run lead to TCU and lost to the Horned Frogs 7-4 in 12 innings. Ole Miss travels to TCU for a three-game set beginning Friday.
The Citadel defeated Louisville 1-0 on Saturday. That is interesting to Ole Miss fans because former Ole Miss hitting coach Stuart Lake is the recruiting coordinator for the Bulldogs, while former Rebel recruiting coordinator Dan McDonnell is the head coach at Louisville.
South Carolina was the most impressive team in the SEC this weekend by taking two straight from Clemson, while Auburn had a rough one, getting swept by Florida State. Mississippi State took two of three from Air Force, but losing to the Falcons even once could be a bad sign. Air Force is improved, but it was one of the worst teams nationally last season.
Ole Miss touts a 2.31 ERA and has struckout 102 hitters while walking 27.
Scott Bittle might be the mound MVP this early in the season. The junior has allowed one hit and no runs in eight innings of relief work through eight innings. Bittle has struckout 19 hitters and touts a miniscule opposing batting average of .038. He has also not thrown a wild pitch. The Texas native still features his electric cutter, but he has developed a change-up that he can locate for strikes.
Justin Cryer came through twice on the weekend but not without making things interesting. He admitted after Sunday's game that he has to channel his adrenaline and settle himself down when he enters the game. Cryer has struggled with control early in his outings, but he is admitting and identifying the problem. He is capable, but he may not have the power pitch to work himself out of jams during SEC play. Getting the early outs will be key.
Drew Pomeranz is the lost player that made the Sunday comeback possible. He didn't get a win or any stat credit for that matter, but the freshman relieved Nathan Baker and slammed the door on Indiana State with his fastball. Pomeranz' first fastball and his final three all registered 94 MPH on the gun, not bad from the left side. It was a tough spot for a newcomer, but he passed with basically a perfect score. His talent is undeniable, and he showed the mental toughness as well Sunday.
Cody Satterwhite won on Saturday, and the junior didn't walk a hitter. That is a key point because of his struggles in week one. Satterwhite said he was rushing his delivery and thought the mechanical flaw was causing his control issues. The week of tinkering with his fundamentals obviously helped against ISU. He kept his pitch count below 100 through seven innings, a great feat for a flamethrower.
Lance Lynn gave a gutsy outing Friday night in the middle of the fog. He didn't let the first inning runs get to him and put up straight zeros before getting touched again in the seventh inning. Mike Bianco thought his outing was better than against Minnesota when he struckout 12 through five frames. The Sycamores were aggressive on first-pitch fastballs, so Lynn had to mix in more offspeed and change up his patterns. It was a good early-season test for the Rebels' ace.
Independence Bowl Mainstay brought out a couple interesting stats, and the neatest one in my opinion was Ole Miss pitchers have struckout more batters than have reached base. 102 Ks, 100 opposing players have reached base.
Opining on the Offense and Defense
The Rebels are hitting .383 as a team and have hit 15 home runs in eight games. Also, they are 14-15 on stolen bases. Opposing pitchers have an 11.13 ERA against Ole Miss.
Logan Power was moved to the four-hole for Sunday's game, and it is a dangerous combo with Power and Cody Overbeck back-to-back. For the season, Overbeck is hitting .485, while Power is at .423. Overbeck tops the team with four and six home runs and doubles respectively, while Power hit three longballs this week and started the game-tying rally with a single Sunday. The key stat is both players have only went down swinging once apiece.
Fuller Smith is proving his monumental worth as a pinch hitter. The experienced team captain had a busy week off the bench and delivered a double Sunday during the eighth inning to cut the lead. The senior his hitting .538 and seems comfortable in his role. It takes a special mindset to be mentally prepared for the pinch-hit possibility.
Zach Miller is back after a sub-par preseason at the plate. Miller is batting .467 and has produced three doubles, which is tied for second on the squad. Miller is also fielding 1.000 in the middle infield.
The shortstop position has been a problem concerning fielding. Ole Miss has nine errors total through eight games, and five of those come from Evan Button and Sean Stuyverson. It is the toughest defensive position on the field besides catcher, but the miscues are occurring too often to feel comfortable. Also, Stuyverson could see more playing time with Button currently hitting a paltry .259.
Brett Basham has tapered off with the bat, but his eight RBI and stellar defense are satisfying the coaches. Quality at-bats are the key for Basham offensively. Also, Zach Rutland did an admirable job behind the plate Sunday. Receiving for Cryer and Bittle, Rutland blocked the pitches in the dirt and kept everything in front. It was a good confidence boost for a position still missing JUCO transfer Kyle Henson. No new information is known concerning Henson.
Travel Roster Fun
The tremendous depth has been talked about at length, and Bianco will have a few decisions to make when cutting his roster down to 25 for SEC play. Grab a roster and give it a shot. Here is my best guess at this point. To make it more difficult, assume that Brett Bukvich will be healthy, and Kyle Henson will be cleared.
1. Lance Lynn
2. Cody Satterwhite
3. Nathan Baker
4. Scott Bittle
5. Drew Pomeranz
6. Justin Cryer
7. Jordan Henry
8. Michael Guerrero
9. Michael Hubbard
10. Logan Power
11. Cody Overbeck
12. Evan Button
13. Sean Stuyverson
14. Tim Ferguson
15. Matt Smith
16. Cullan Kight
17. Brett Basham
18. Kyle Henson
19. Fuller Smith
20. Rory McKean
21. Brett Bukvich
22. Phillip Irwin
23. Kyle Mills
24. Zach Miller
25. Garrett Duff
That is ten pitchers and 15 position players. This is strictly a guess, and the notable exceptions are Matt Tracy, David Kindred, Jeremy Travis, Wade Broyles and Jake Morgan. One of those pitchers would replace Bukvich if he is longer away than I anticipate, and Rutland would move into Henson's spot if he remains ineligible. I am most likely way off, but it is an entertaining debate.
Sunday Night Notes: Rebels Still Rolling
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