The visitors from Tuscaloosa unleashed their high-powered offense that for the first two games Rebel pitching was able to keep under control. Not so on Sunday.
Starter Brett Bukvich didn't make it through the top of the first inning. By the end of two complete, Alabama led 14-0. Some fans hadn't made it into the ballpark yet. Others were already headed out.
So Bianco is now going to plan C for the third weekend of the SEC season. He'll start the Rebels' all-star closer in the Sunday game next weekend at LSU.
"We're going to start Scott Bittle next Sunday," Bianco said when asked about the Sunday situation, which has now become one of the troubling spots for the team through 20 games. "I think he's our next best guy to do it. We've tried a couple of guys, and we need to get somebody to give us some zeros. We think he's the best guy."
The Rebels left Vanderbilt looking for a Sunday starter after the Commodores got to Aaron Barrett right off the bat. After Bukvich allowed seven runs on six hits and was relieved by Rory McKean, the door was open again for a new face on the mound come next Sunday.
On Friday and Saturday this weekend, as last weekend, Drew Pomeranz, the sophomore left-hander, and Phillip Irwin, the fourth-year junior righty, continue to emerge as solid weekend starters. Pomeranz is not a surprise. He was signed to do just that here.
Irwin, perhaps given his injury and Tommy John surgery early in his UM career and the fact that he hadn't had too many good outings as a Rebel before this season, has been a pleasant surprise. Some point to a solid performance against Bethune-Cookman in the Coral Gables Regional as the start of better things for Irwin.
Two junior college newcomers that were supposed to provide some answers this season haven't, at least not yet. Barrett and Chris Corrigan, who started the second game of the season in Mobile, Ala., against Mercer, have had some chances to get it done as starters but have struggled basically every time out.
The Rebels had their second opportunity to sweep an SEC foe but failed. Starting pitching was a downfall in both cases. Against Alabama relief pitching didn't help the Rebels' cause either.
McKean went an inning, allowing seven runs on eight hits. Kyle Barbeck, a freshman left-hander, went 2.2 innings with five runs, seven hits, and four walks, the first of the game given up by Ole Miss pitching.
David Goforth was called on next and was respectable, but by then the game was well in hand – for Alabama. Still the redshirt freshman righty went 3.2 innings with only two hits, four strikeouts and just a walk. He actually got the first strikeout of the day for the Rebel staff.
Barrett made an appearance and went the last inning with a strikeout.
Alabama, which outhit Ole Miss 23-12, improved to 15-7 overall and 3-3 in SEC play.
The Rebels need some pitchers, like Goforth and Jake Morgan, who closed on Saturday, to continue to pitch well as Bittle takes a starting role. With Bianco making the decision to start Bittle next Sunday, things continue to be an interesting puzzle for this ballclub, especially from a pitching standpoint.
But they are every year in a season as long as baseball.
"Just a tough day at the ballpark," Bianco said after this one finally concluded, with the high point for the Rebels being a grand slam by true freshman Matt Snyder in the bottom of the ninth. "Alabama was just locked in today offensively. We pitched well the first two days to a very good offensive club. You can now see why everybody says they're so good offensively, and they showed it today."
With a 4-2 record after two SEC weekends and a 15-5 overall mark, there's no need to panic after a game like Sunday's. Certainly nobody on the team or coaching staff will. The coaches proved again with the announcement of Bittle as the Sunday starter next weekend they are willing to try something else.
Teams have to get over losses like this one from time to time. The Rebels will probably "flush it" as they like to say.
They just can't afford to have many more like Sunday to flush if they are able to accomplish the things they want to this season.
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