Seeking Improvement

The Ole Miss baseball team finds itself in a skid, having lost five of its last seven games. Those type runs happen in baseball. We see them every year.

During the slide, which includes losses to Arkansas-Little Rock and Memphis, the Rebels have struggled at times in all phases. The Memphis game, a 6-5 loss and the first time Ole Miss had lost to the Tigers in their last 14 meetings, exposed problems in two areas.

The Rebels got nine hits but left 12 stranded and had the bases loaded three times early in the game. But they could not produce enough runs to ultimately win the contest.

And there were three errors in the game, and a fourth was recorded then later changed as Miles Hamblin, playing first, had a ball bounce away from him and into foul territory, allowing the runner to reach. The play was later recorded as a hit for Memphis.

The scoring problem was also a factor at Georgia. The Rebels' 11 total runs in three games against what coming in had been a very average Bulldog pitching staff, stat-wise, was enough to produce two wins.

Sunday pitching has been a mystery and a puzzle this season for Ole Miss, but David Goforth appears to have landed in the spot for now, starting the last two Sundays. But last Sunday at Georgia it was hitting and scoring runs that were the bigger problems for Ole Miss in a 6-3 loss.

Matt Smith

Matt Smith said the Rebels still have confidence and don't really believe things are headed south.

"I really don't think we're in a funk, honestly," said the fourth-year junior. "It's just little things we've got to do. And honestly, if we're going to make mistakes, we've got to make them now instead of later on in the season when it's crunch time. We learn from it, and we get back out there and play our baseball."

That's a positive way to look at it, to get it out of your system now. The flip side is all games count, and the season isn't young. There have been 34 games of a 56-game regular season played already.

Smith said it's as simple as going out and getting the job done.

"We didn't get the timely hit when we needed it," he said of the Rebels' latest loss Tuesday night. "We had the bases loaded a couple of times. We had three errors. They got their big hits. It just isn't getting done when we need it."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said he believes his team, 23-11 overall and 7-5 in SEC play, still has confidence.

"I think so," he said. "You've all seen enough baseball to know we haven't played great baseball. We gave up three unearned runs (against Memphis). Defensively we made some mistakes. We had runners on and we had opportunities. One more base hit and all of a sudden we blow the game open. "

Bianco said his team has played good baseball at times this season, especially early.

"We're just not playing good enough to win," he said. "We're not playing terrible. We're just not playing good enough to win. I think their confidence is fine. They realize they're blowing opportunities, and nobody wants to lose games. We have to play better. The good news is we have played better. But it's not like any one of the three phases has really left us. At certain times they have. I just think we're a pitch off, we're a hit off, we're a play off."

Leaving so many runners stranded Tuesday night and not getting them home in other games has become frustrating. But they need to draw on those early successes when they were getting those crucial hits and scoring more runs.

Mike Bianco

"One of the things we were able to do up until maybe two weeks ago was to get the timely hit to be able to score runners when they're on base in scoring position," Bianco said. "But if you're not going to do that, you have to be really clean in the field and you have to really pitch well. I thought we pitched well (against Memphis).

"I thought (Matt) Crouse did a good job. Their guy (Trey) Weidman, he got the big hit with the bases loaded, hit a ball in the gap that scored the runners, and that was really the ballgame. We competed hard, played hard. But you have to get them when you get a chance, and we didn't."

With a road trip to South Carolina up next, the Rebels must be more productive when they have a chance to be. The Gamecocks currently lead the SEC East at 9-3 and are 25-7 overall. Bianco said the Rebels have taken a look at a lot of areas of deficiency, and they are trying to work on all of them to get better.

"What you have to try to do is focus and maximize the opportunity," Bianco said. "One of the things we practiced, although it didn't show (Tuesday night), was the 3-2 counts, to win more 3-2 counts, to walk more 3-2 counts. We've been in so many 3-2 counts where we swing at pitches just out of the zone and we pop them up or ground them out, instead of walking and getting another baserunner and making them pitch out of the stretch and those things. We did that better, but we still missed some."


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