Still Within Reach

It was almost like watching the black and blue division of the NFL. But this wasn't Minnesota-Chicago in the fall.

This was Ole Miss-Arkansas in May, two of the SEC's best baseball programs and two of the best teams in 2010.

Arkansas (37-11 overall, 16-8 SEC) won the battle, but the war goes on. There are six games left this SEC season, and everything is still up for grabs.

Don't look now (or do look), but the Ole Miss-Auburn series in Oxford in two weeks is shaping up to be bigger than most anticipated a month ago. The Tigers have caught fire and are now tied with the Rebels (34-15, 15-9) in SEC play.

The two teams are tied for fourth overall in the league race but are only two games out of first. Florida and South Carolina are 17-7.

It's been a tough stretch injury-wise as the 10-game UM win streak turned into a losing weekend series vs. the Razorbacks.

Matt Snyder can't catch a break. He's had something wrong almost all year. This time it was that bum shoulder bothering him. It was first spotted this time around in an at-bat Friday night, and he was checked out by trainer and coach. After Friday's loss, we saw no more of Matt Snyder this weekend. By Sunday he also had a 100-degree temperature, unrelated to his shoulder.

Tim Ferguson kept having to dive back into first base in Saturday's game until finally he jammed his little finger. He was looked at by the same trainer and coach. They taped his pinky to his ring finger, and off he went to play some more baseball. He said Sunday after the Rebels lost 7-0 that it didn't affect him.

Then there is Drew Pomeranz, the Rebels' stellar ace who is getting beat up a bit. He took a ball off his leg Friday night in the early-going, and, yes, was looked at by trainer and coach. But he pressed on and said it didn't bother him.

Then it was revealed that he has a strained pectoral muscle (that would be in his chest) that began to bother him the Friday night game at Mississippi State. It bothered him against Arkansas as well. He threw some the remainder of the weekend to see how it felt. He seems to be OK and should pitch Friday night against Alabama.

A bit black and blue are the Rebels today, and that goes for mind and soul as well as body. Things are not quite as pleasant as they were last Sunday night or the Sunday night before following sweeps of LSU and MSU.

"We obviously didn't play very well," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco following the Rebels' shutout loss on Sunday.

We hadn't heard that since the 10-game win streak started. Back before that, when Ole Miss posted losses to teams like UALR and Memphis, it was about not playing well, and Bianco said it then.

But with the Sunday win at South Carolina, they started the win streak. For a long stretch they played well, certainly better than the opposition.

But it was clear the opposition was about to get tougher with the Razorbacks coming to town. That proved to be the case.

The Sunday setback has to be a disappointment for a number of reasons. Maybe the Rebels' approach was the most disappointing.

"Like Coach said, we came out a little flat today, and there was no excuse for that," Ferguson said after the Rebels got only two hits on the day.

Mike Bolsinger went eight innings for the Hogs after pitching an inning and two-thirds on Friday night.

"I thought he was real good, and his slider was unbelievable," Ferguson said. "And he was locating good. He was making us swing at bad pitches."

Offensively the Rebels aren't the same team without the bat of Matt Snyder in the lineup.

"No doubt," Bianco agreed. "We saw that for the last two days offensively."

Ole Miss scored two runs in the first inning and a run in the second inning of Saturday's game and that was it - for the rest of the weekend. And the Saturday game the Rebels won 3-2.

That's 15 straight innings now without scratching. That's also an Ole Miss team that scored 100 runs during the 10-game win streak.

Of course, that's baseball, too.

So if the Rebels weren't going to score, David Goforth needed to be at his best, certainly facing a potent Razorback lineup. And he was good enough, but got no help.

"I thought David once again gave us a chance and competed hard," Bianco said after the third-year sophomore righty went six innings, allowing five earned runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and four walks.

"We just weren't real good offensively," he added.

The Rebels now have a few days to heal, mentally and physically, and get ready for the short trip to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama.

"It's been bumpy and with key people," Bianco said of the injuries. "But everybody has those."

Right now the Rebels seem to have their fair share, that's for sure.

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