Ole Miss was sitting pretty at the top of the SEC as a top-5 team a week ago. Now, after the team’s second consecutive series loss, things are looking a little different.
The Rebels battled against No. 2 Arkansas last weekend, but they were only able to come away with one win. In the previous weekend, the Rebels traveled to take on No. 5 Florida in Gainesville and managed just one win. While both of their opponents are incredibly well-rounded, dropping a series at home in the SEC is never a good look.
The SEC is really good at baseball. So as a team in the SEC, expectations are a little bit lower in terms of how many games you are going to win in conference play each season. That being said, every single game counts, and you can’t lose close ones. When selecting teams for regional play, the committee will look at every loss and dissect it. Even close wins against bad teams can hurt you in the long run.
Arkansas won the first game in the doubleheader on Saturday, April 10, and after “feeling like they were punched in the mouth,” the Rebels fought back to even it out at 1-1. In the first game, the Rebels left 14 runners on base and had bases loaded with no runs scored in three separate innings. I cannot tell you if there is anything more frustrating to watch as a fan.
On Sunday, things were off to a drastic start almost immediately for Ole Miss. The Rebels’ starting pitcher Derek Diamond gave up five runs in the first inning. Freshman Josh Mallitz came in to relieve him after 1.1 innings and allowed six runs himself. Giving up 11 runs in three innings against the No. 2 team is a death sentence for most teams, but to everyone’s surprise, Ole Miss fought back to even the score at 14-14.
Ole Miss ended up losing the game 18-14. This is a key example of games that will haunt you when it comes time for postseason rankings. Had they had won, the Rebels would be No.1 in the country and lead the SEC. Starting off 6-0 in conference play was a huge relief for Ole Miss and allowed for a little bit of breathing room, if you will. Sweeping an SEC team at home is one thing, but doing it on the road is a whole different ball game. Now that they are 8-4 in conference play, the Rebels will need to handle business down in Starkville with a series win at minimum. Mississippi State is a fantastic program with an all-around great team.
Mike Bianco announced the new starting pitchers for this series with a change to Sunday’s lineup. Sophomore pitcher Drew McDaniel will now replace Diamond, along with unchanged juniors Gunnar Hoglund and Doug Nikhazy.
In order for Ole Miss to win out in this series, and all of the rest of them, there will be a very slim margin of error. The batting needs to be handled in every single inning, and when there is an opportunity for runs to score, you cannot waste it — especially against a top-5 team.
Starting time for the Rebels’ battle against instate rival Mississippi State starts on Friday, at 6 p.m..