Even Sunday baseball loss can't spoil weekend

You kinda had to have the feeling Sunday morning that sweeping LSU was just too much to ask. The first two days had been about as good as it gets.

Like I heard a couple of people say and also saw on the message board Saturday, "Not bad when you beat LSU and Mississippi State on the same day."

They were referring to baseball and men's tennis respectively. Both those were in Oxford. But down in Starkville Saturday, the Ole Miss women's tennis team beat the Lady Bulldogs for the 19th straight time. The men's match in Oxford moved that win streak to 21 against the arch-rival.

Domination? Look it up in the dictionary. There's a picture of Ole Miss beating Mississippi State in tennis.

As good as baseball was the first two days for Ole Miss, it was equally as good on Sunday for LSU as a decent Tiger team wasn't leaving Oxford without at least one win. The good news for the Rebels is that they did win two and remain alone in first place in the SEC West at the halfway mark of league play.

Their 9-6 record is the best at this point in any season since the Rebels started going to Super Regionals.

After winning the finale against Alabama two weeks ago, they've made their recent winning run at home. Now they leave Oxford, traveling to Pearl for the fourth game of the year against MSU and then head to South Carolina for three games.

Back to Saturday. There haven't been many days like that here. There were times not too long ago that spring game days meant little more than a few thousand people showing up to watch a glorified scrimmage. Ole Miss has really gotten the hang of making Grove Bowl weekend something special every spring.

The first real effort at it was back in 1989 when Oxford-University Stadium was dedicated. Former Yankee star Whitey Ford, the winningest pitcher in that franchise's history with 236, came to town to throw out the first pitch at the request of his old teammate Jake Gibbs, then coaching the Rebels.

That big event followed the Rebels' spring game earlier in the day, which also included an alumni game. Archie played. Billy Brewer scored. It was special.

But it didn't compare to this weekend. From the Grove Walk led by Patrick and Eli and Houston Nutt to the activities on the stage to the chance to be in Vaught-Hemingway with a record number of spring game fans, it was special.

But it got even better. When Patrick and Eli threw the ceremonial first pitches with a terrific video behind them, which followed an emotional presentation with the LaBarge family and the renaming of the Bullpen Club after Ernie, the place was electric - times 9,000.

The Rebels then went out and pounded LSU for win No. 2 on the weekend, as across campus Ole Miss track hosted a successful event and Rebel softball was in the process of taking two of three games over 12th-ranked LSU in Baton Rouge.

If you didn't leave this weekend feeling pretty good about all things Ole Miss, you were in a definite minority.

Sunday at Swayze wasn't the clincher hoped for. Cody Satterwhite couldn't keep the Tiger bats at bay, and an LSU ballclub which had done nothing offensively in the prior two games got 13 hits and sent two balls out of the park. Good thing for Ole Miss that nobody was on base at the time. Didn't matter in the long run.

The problem with the Rebels all year on Sundays, except maybe last Sunday when they beat Vandy 11-6, is they rarely get anything going off the opposing starter no matter who it is. That should be the exception, not the norm, with a good hitting team like Ole Miss.

A 10 ERA guy like Ricky Bowen at State, a lefty like Ryan Verdugo (the Rebels were 10-0 against left-handers before Sunday), a TCU reliever that had pitched less than three innings in two years, the Rebels had a hard time with them all.

So far this season, the Rebels don't get a lot of hits on Sundays and score few runs. Only one run in the final loss to TCU; none in a loss to MSU; two each in losses to Florida and LSU and a one-run win over Alabama.

Some of it is the opposing pitcher. Some of it is the Rebels' approach at the plate that particular day. Some of it might even be a bit of complacency.

To further explain, the Sunday psyche of a desperate team, in this case LSU, is to win one to avoid disaster. It was the reverse for the Rebels last season, who got beat the first two games at LSU and rolled in game three 16-5.

Some of that is grasping. Let's face it. It's tough to beat good SEC teams three straight days. But that isn't the point here.

The point is the Rebels need more run production on Sundays, and most of this season they haven't gotten it.

It appears the days where a ton of runs are scored on Sundays in college baseball may be past. But to only produce that few runs in game three puts a lot of pressure on your defense and even moreso on your Sunday pitcher.

The Rebels had won both games since Satterwhite moved to Sunday – Alabama and Vanderbilt. But against the Tigers he was nowhere close to his best.

That all being the case, the Rebels are at this point running away with the SEC West. At 9-6, nobody else on this side of the league has more than six wins.

The catch? Three of the last five SEC series are on the road, and all three are against top-notch Eastern clubs - USC, Georgia, and Kentucky.

Can the Rebels keep rolling, win the West outright, get that No. 2 seed in Hoover, or better yet win the overall SEC?

Having better offensive Sundays would help.


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