As we sit halfway through league play, the Ole Miss baseball team (27-10, 9-6 SEC) has taken its fan base through a roller coaster of a season so far. Sound familiar? That’s because pretty much every Ole Miss team ever can be summed up in the same way- it has its highs and lows, and at some points, fans question why they even got on in the first place. But hope keeps fans on the ride.
The Rebels started off the season strong by traveling to Texas and leaving as the kings of baseball. After going undefeated against three top 10 teams, the Rebels found themselves on the throne of the national baseball rankings at No. 1 in the nation. However, it was short-lived, as the next weekend the University of Central Florida came to town and took with them a series win and stripped away their top ranking. But things still looked good.
Ole Miss started out league play going undefeated against both Auburn and Alabama. The Rebels were 6-0 in the SEC and fiercely looked upon their gauntlet of a schedule.
Like all roller coasters, what goes up must come down. And for the last three weeks, the Rebels haven’t been able to clinch a series win against top-tier teams such as Florida, Arkansas, and Mississippi State. While these losses aren’t necessarily detrimental to the team or season, there are still many unanswered questions that need to be figured out if the Rebels are poised to make a deep season run to Omaha.
The bats have to get better, on Friday nights specifically:
Junior pitcher Gunnar Hoglund and projected first-round draft pick, is too good on the mound for the bats to be unable to help him out. Halfway through the season, Hoglund is averaging an ERA of 2.73 with 87 strikeouts. However, the Rebels have been unable to win their last three opening games with him pitching. If the bats could find their swing in the opening games and string together more runs early, Hoglund and the closer will have less to worry about.
Sunday pitching and depth woes:
With an impressive outing Sunday in his first start, freshman Drew McDaniel has secured a spot to start the third game off for the Rebels. McDaniel pitched an impressive game and gave the team a chance down the stretch, and hopefully will continue his momentum in his progression as the season goes on. However, after him, the rest of our pitching crew gives Rebel Nation the most to be worried about. The Rebels lack the closer needed to come up big in close games.
Back to the Bats
Statistically, Ole Miss is one of the best teams at hitting the ball, both in the league and in the country. However, the lack of consistency and inability to strike early has caused the Rebels trouble in league play. Players like Cael Baker and Hayden Leatherwood, who struggled before finding their groove against State this past weekend, need to figure out a way to consistently get on base.
Credit to both Baker and Leatherwood, both seem to be finding their swing at the right time. If the majority of batters in the lineup can follow suit, the Omaha hopes will be alive and well for the Rebels.
Doug Days, beer showers, and right field bombs have been more than great, and the criticism only comes because we care. There is just over a month until the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, and the team welcomes a struggling LSU team to Oxford with the first pitch on Thursday night.