Sweep In Starkville

STARKVILLE – And now the Rebels leave here with a 10-game win streak in their collective hip pocket and in a tie for first place in the SEC West.

Arkansas is up next, and that's this weekend in Oxford. There are no games until then. It's exam week on the Ole Miss campus.

The Rebels (33-13 overall, 14-7 SEC) came here and took care of business like no Ole Miss baseball team has done since 1972. That is, sweep the arch-rival in baseball on Dudy Noble Field.

That was the last time a Rebel baseball team went to Omaha, too, just for information purposes. But let's keep that way out there for now, shall we?

(Also for the record, during that season 38 years ago, Ole Miss won six games from State, three here and three in Oxford on old Swayze Field. That's the way the format was set up in league play back then.)

This weekend, the Rebels gutted out the first two wins and just tried to stay way out in front in the finale. Friday it was about pitching, a 4-2 UM win. Saturday it was about scoring in a 12-10 Reb victory. Sunday, call it what you want. Thirty runs crossed the plate as Ole Miss won 19-11. And they didn't even get to finish the contest, calling this one after seven complete, even though Ole Miss had batted in the top of the eighth but failed to score.

We all wondered how this one might end, or if it ever would. It took a tornado warning to do so. That was nearly four hours in.

It had been that way all weekend. Weather-watching started even before that. It's almost amazing they were able to get in three games, although the last one was shortened by storms.

On Sunday, both teams tried to come up with something on the mound to slow the other down. It was challenging for coaches Mike Bianco and John Cohen, for sure.

I asked Bianco after the game was called about his pitching, which had just given up 17 hits.

"What pitching?" said the 10th-year Rebel head coach, who has won four straight series against the Bulldogs here - laughing victoriously, I might add.

"You've got some nerve," he went on to say, smiling. "That's your first question?"

Of course anyone watching here or via TV could tell pitching wasn't that good, just good enough. But the point of the pitching question, which wasn't finished nor answered, was "What was the thought process going into today?" And "What were the challenges as the scoring fest unfolded for almost four hours in this one?"

It was the most important aspect of the entire game. Hitting was outstanding for both teams. The Rebel defense was, for the most part, superlative again with just one error that was wiped out by a double play immediately thereafter. And MSU's four errors were somewhat the norm for the Bullies (20-23, 5-16).

Yes, it was David Goforth, Eric Callender and Matt Crouse who got the Rebels through seven innings.

They were good enough, and they got a lot of run support.

Less than three weeks ago, this was a Rebel team that was struggling. It had lost games to UALR and Memphis. It lost the first two games at South Carolina. Then, as baseball can go, things changed with a 5-4 win in Columbia. That was the first of ten straight wins.

And now they focus on exams, take a deserved couple of days off from baseball before practicing again, and then welcome the Razorbacks (35-10, 14-7) to Oxford in what should be one outstanding series of games.

"We've played well, especially offensively," Bianco said, admitting three weeks ago his team was not playing well. "We're playing with a lot of confidence. There are games we pitch well and play good defense. And then there are days like today where we just hold it together.

"I'm proud of the guys the way they hung in there," he continued. "It was a long weekend."

Oh yeah, about that pitching deal?

"It was a tough day to be a pitcher," Bianco said late Sunday.

But a very good three days in Starkville for Ole Miss. The best here for Rebel baseball since a remarkable season 38 years ago.

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