A quality, albeit brief, start from Will Ethridge vaulted Ole Miss to a 7-2 win over Long Beach State on Friday night.
Ethridge pitched three complete innings, allowing only 2 hits and no runs with 2 strikeouts after missing last week’s Friday start with a blister on his pitching hand. The win marked Ole Miss’ sixth on the season with a doubleheader looming on Saturday against the Dirtbags.
According to Ole Miss catcher Cooper Johnson, Ethridge looked very good on the mound and had strong command of all his pitches.
“He came out there, and he was electric,” Johnson said. “(He had) all three pitches working for him. Curveball was nasty, fastball was really good (and) changeup was really good.”
According to Ethridge, his early departure from the game was a precautionary measure to ensure that his blister doesn’t become an issue again with SEC play looming on the horizon. Although he missed last week’s start, Ethridge felt good in his performance on Friday and didn’t feel that his blister was an issue.
“(I) felt really good out there,” Ethridge said. “Command was a little bit off in the first inning, but I just started filling it up and letting my defense work.”
Ethridge was relieved by Houston Roth who pitched a shaky fourth inning and gave up 2 runs on 3 hits, but settled down in the fifth, retiring the Dirtbags in order. Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco believes that some of Roth’s early struggles are coming from a lingering shoulder injury suffered in the preseason.
“The shoulder’s still bothering him, that left shoulder,” Bianco said. “He bruised that joint, and it still bothers him, and you can see it affects his command, but he did what he’s done for two years: even when he gives up a run or two, he can compete with anybody. Just proud that he was able to hang in there and put a zero back up.
The only other Rebel reliever to see action on Friday was Austin Miller who pitched 4 innings of one-hit, scoreless ball and earned the save. Miller has found himself fulfilling a middle relief role so far for the Rebels, a role that he is glad to hold.
“It’s been great,” Miller said. “Kind of fitting in a little bit more. It’s just kind of nice to know that you’re going to get some innings on the weekend and just go out there and play for your brothers.”
Although five of Ole Miss’ seven runs came in the first three innings, Thomas Dillard had another successful night at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a walk. Dillard’s batting average climbed to .515 on Friday, good for the best among Rebel batters.
Bianco was quick to give credit to the work of Dirtbags’ starting pitcher Zak Baayoun in keeping the Rebel bats quiet in the middle innings.
“Rather than be too critical of us, you have to give their guy some credit,” Bianco said. “I think he was terrific. He was sharp and really good, I thought, especially against left-handers.”
Although Ole Miss struggled offensively after the third inning, Bianco was pleased with how his bats performed early in the game.
“I thought we did a good job early,” Bianco said. “You’ve got to credit our offense early-on. Had some big hits by (Jacob) Adams, (Grae) Kessinger, (Thomas) Dillard and some others to be able to move runners and score some runs early.”
Game one of tomorrow’s doubleheader will begin at 1:30 p.m. with game two beginning 45 minutes after the conclusion of game one.