Sunday afternoon Tulane had its way with the Rebels 12-4 as Ole Miss pitching allowed 20 hits, and the Rebs didn't play much like a team that had won nine straight. Baseball can be like that.
Word was that Tulane head coach Rick Jones had a nice pep talk with his team Sunday morning, saying that the Green Wave losing a series at home is unacceptable, or something akin to it. The Rebels had won 6-4 Friday and 5-1 Saturday.
Jones has a proud program that has been to the College World Series twice this decade, both pre-Katrina, in 2001 and 2005. And it's also played in the Oxford Regional twice, winning it in 2004 and returning in 2006, which the Rebels won and advanced to host Miami.
That Tulane played lights out in game three and came out swinging, literally, was no surprise.
What may be a bit of a surprise is the struggles UM Sunday starter Trent Rothlin has had through three weekends. Against Louisiana-Monroe and Oakland, his four walks in each outing weren't a factor. Ole Miss won 13-2 and 9-3 respectively, as Rothlin worked six innings against the Warhawks and five frames vs. the Grizzlies.
Against the Green Wave, the plan was for the junior right-hander to cut down on walks and throw more strikes. As Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said after the Tulane hitting barrage, maybe that wasn't the best idea, looking back.
Rothlin felt it was the Green Wave's aggressive approach and successful result as much as anything.
"Everything was working well," he said of his pitches. "They just had a good offensive day. I tip my cap to them."
Rothlin worked three and two/thirds innings, allowing six runs on 10 hits with three strikeouts.
But no walks.
"As far as strike percentage, today was my best outing as far as that," Rothlin said. "So it's kind of a two-sided deal. I'd been working on throwing strikes. It was just that they were matching me with that today. They sat on it and knew what they wanted to hit, and they hit it."
Bianco was non-committal on whether Rothlin would get a fourth Sunday start this weekend as Louisville comes to Oxford for three games, preferring to wait a while to decide.
This is also the first week this season the Rebels (9-2) play two midweek games – today at 6:30 p.m. against Austin Peay and again tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. So deciding the roles of some pitchers may be a result of what takes place as the week progresses.
"Don't know if I want to quite answer it yet," Bianco said of his starter for the third game this weekend against the Cardinals.
He did, however, say that fifth-year senior right-hander Rory McKean will draw the start today against the Governors. McKean is a seasoned veteran but has struggled a bit thus far in 2010.
McKean has pitched just 2.2 innings this season in four relief appearances. His ERA, sure to come down, is 20.25 currently. In his time on the mound this season, he's given up nine hits and six runs with one walk and one strikeout.
Sophomore left-hander Jeremy Dobbs will pitch today for the Governors, while senior lefty Stephen Huff will go in game two. Dobbs has made two starts this season and carries a 9.72 ERA in 8.1 innings-pitched. He went 3.2 innings against Iowa and 4.2 innings against Northern Illinois. Huff, meanwhile, has been lights-out for the Govs in his three starts. While he has struggled with control (14 walks and 4 HBP), he has struck out 22 and allowed only three runs on seven hits in 19 innings for a 1.42 ERA.
APSU is 8-3 on the season and has won six of its last seven games.
Adjusting To The Situation
Bianco said the they tried to adjust to the Tulane hitting Sunday, but to no avail. The hits just kept on coming.
"What we tried to do was widen it out a little bit. Tried to go away from the game plan a little a try to nibble a little more," he said. "Even when we did that, it seemed like they were still getting good swings. That's what I'm talking about, that you've got to make some pitches. At some point you've got to take it upon yourself to make a pitch. At the end (the Green Wave hitters Sunday) were just too good."
Rothlin was out much of the fall with mono and pitched only the last few practices. Bianco mentioned the staff is still learning about the transfer from Walters (Tenn. )State Community College and before that Clemson.
"We're trying to figure him out," he said. "One of the things we thought the past two weekends was he hadn't given up runs, so the results have been good. But we knew we had to cut down his walks. You can't walk the people he's walking and get through it as the competition increases. We talked a lot about that in his bullpen on Thursday. Again, it was one of those things (Sunday) that I don't think it was necessarily all him. It was one of those days the baseball gods said Tulane is going to be real hot swinging the bats. I mean 20 hits and 12 runs. We haven't seen that in a while."
Just as they had against Rothlin, the Green Wave got six runs and 10 hits off the four relievers that followed him.
Making things even tougher was the fact that some Rebels struggled at the plate, especially the veterans. Like Matt Smith, 1-for-11, four walks, five strikeouts. Zach Miller, 2-for-12, one walk, five strikeouts. David Phillips, 2-for-11, two walks, six strikeouts.
And Matt Snyder, one of the Rebels' clutch bats, especially with the long ball, went down in the second inning Friday and was out for the rest of the weekend with a dislocated shoulder after a dive at first to record an out.
The book on the Green Wave was they could pitch it. They proved that, even though they lost two of three games.
But some other Rebels had a bit of a breakout weekend, or a continuation of some offensive success in some cases. Like Miles Hamblin, 4-for-9 with seven RBI, including a three-run homer Friday night that aided the victory cause. It was his second round-tripper of the season.
And Kevin Mort with only four hits through the first eight games but with two hits in three games at Tulane.
And Alex Yarbrough, who continued his impressive start with an 8-for-13 weekend, a couple of RBI and three doubles while in the Crescent City. He leads the team in hitting with a .438 average with three doubles, two triples.
And Tim Ferguson, who had his best day on the Rebels' worst day, Sunday, going 3-for-3 with a double and a RBI.
The Rebel junior center fielder said all there is to do after Sunday's debacle is move on.
"We try to forget about (Sunday). Chew it, taste it a little bit, spit it out and forget about it," Ferguson said. "And take care of Austin Peay this week."
Sure Hands So far
Ole Miss' defense has been impressive all season. The Rebels have only six errors, and two of those six came in the season's first inning of play in a 6-5 loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
"We catch it. Through 11 games it's been one of the bright spots," Bianco said. "We field the ball well. We were errorless this weekend. It's tough to do that in college baseball, even on the (artifical) turf. (Tulane) made one or two errors every game."
Bianco said the trip to New Orleans accomplished most of what he and the coaching staff were hoping for – except, of course, one more win.
"We've still got to play better," he said. "It was nice to go on the road. Nice to play a good team and be challenged. I thought we pitched really well the first two days. But when you lose on the third day, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It was a good trip and one that is now behind us. We can move on to the next few games at home and get ready for SEC play."
A Busy Week
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