Diamond Rebels drop series to rival Mississippi State

Posted on Apr 4 2016 - 7:01am by Brian Scott Rippee

It was much of the same for Ole Miss baseball through the first two games against Mississippi State. The Rebels lost the night game 3-1. Brady Bramlett went 5.1 innings allowing two runs on six hits.

Ole Miss was only able to tally four hits in the contest, and it was in part due to the complete game, four-hit performance from Mississippi State’s projected first-round draft pick Dakota Hudson.

The offensive struggles continued in game two as it dropped the swing game 6-2, again only recording four hits. Only getting an inning and a third from starter Chad Smith did not help the Rebels’ cause either. Smith was chased from the game in the second inning after allowing four runs on five hits.

Junior J.B. Woodman hits during the first game of the Louisville series on February 26. (Photo by: Evan Turner)

Junior J.B. Woodman hits during the first game of the Louisville series on Feb. 26. (Photo by: Evan Turner)

The offense came to life a bit in game three after a shuffled Mike Bianco lineup was able to salvage game three 5-2. J.B. Woodman hit leadoff and Ryan Olenek hit second in the order.

Woodman batted in the leadoff spot eight times in 2015. After being out-hit 18-8 in the first two games, Ole Miss was able to get the offense going on Sunday in their 8-5 victory. While Mississippi State’s pitching on Sunday hasn’t compared to Hudson or Saturday starter Austin Sexton, Ole Miss needed to get itself back on track and not go without a win two weekends in a row.

Analysis: Avoiding a second consecutive sweep on Sunday was important for the psyche of this team if nothing else, but it’s no secret this team is struggling. The offense has been spotty the last two weeks, and the starting pitching has not been close to the level needed to win in the Southeastern Conference. It is also in part due to running into two of the hotter teams in the league and maybe the country in South Carolina and Mississippi State.

The good news is that four of Ole Miss’ next five series come against teams with losing records in SEC play, and four of those match ups are at home. With only 28 games in the books, this season is still young and there is plenty of time. But that does not mean that this team looks like the same one that started 20-2 and knocked off Louisville.

The most consistent crutch for this team is its strong bullpen, but they have been taxed far too early in games due to the starting pitching not being able to go deep into games. Sean Johnson’s departure in the fourth inning means that no starting pitcher has reached the sixth inning. That is probably the most glaring issue that needs to change if this team is going to get back on the right track. If Ole Miss can start getting better performances from their starting pitchers, giving their bullpen an opportunity, the Rebels will put themselves in a much better position to win.