After a loss to Jacksonville State during the midweek, the Rebels looked to come back strong in the opening weekend of SEC play against Vanderbilt.
The Commodores took down Ole Miss last year in the first round of the SEC Tournament, so it’s safe to say the Rebels might be looking for some retribution.
Junior right-handed pitcher Jack Dougherty again filled the role as the Friday night starter, in this case, the Thursday night opener. Dougherty did not have his best night of the season, with only four innings pitched, four strikeouts, 98 pitches and six runs.
The pitcher gave up no free bases with walks or hit batters, but the field struggled to back him up. Coming into the night, the Rebels had a fielding percentage of .985, but crucial errors throughout the night changed that.
Peyton Chatagnier made his first error of the season in the bottom of the first and followed it with another throwing error in the bottom of the fourth. This marked Chatagnier’s first error since February 2022.
Ole Miss had four errors on the night. Along with Chatagnier’s two, Ethan Lege and Jacob Gonzalez both added one each. Two of the four errors scored a run for the Commodores or got a runner on base that eventually scored.
Heading into the fourth inning, the game was tied 2-2. By the end of it, Vanderbilt led by three. By this point, the Rebels only had four hits, and Vanderbilt had 10.
Vanderbilt continued to put bat to ball in the sixth while Ole Miss struggled to gain momentum at the plate. The Commodores’ solid offense made Dougherty hit a career-high 93 pitches on the mound.
While all the other Rebels were having a hard night, Calvin Harris had a phenomenal one. Harris went 4-for-4 at the plate with an RBI, having more hits than the rest of the team combined.
Even so, his efforts were not enough to come out with the win. The Rebel bats never became hot and costly errors ended in a loss.
A six-run inning from the Commodores shut the door on the Rebels, and the game ended early. With the run-rule in effect, Vanderbilt took the first game of the series 12-2 in the eighth inning on Thursday night.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t give Jack (Dougherty) a chance tonight,” head coach Mike Bianco said after the game. “Just too many errors and too many baserunners, making him really have to work harder.”
Back at Hawkins Field Friday night, Ole Miss looked to even the series. Freshman right-handed pitcher Grayson Saunier was up to pitch for the Rebels.
The freshman started very strong. Through the first four innings, Saunier had five strikeouts, five hits, six runners left on bases and no runs.
The Commodores started to figure out the pitcher in the top of the fifth, so Sam Tookoian took over.
The lineup stayed the same for the rest of the field including this weekend’s DH, Reagan Burford. Burford got the start this weekend instead of freshman Will Furniss who has had the place in the lineup card for the past few weeks.
Burford had his first hit of the season only three days ago but added another in the second inning of Friday night’s game.
Unfortunately, his hit was only one of two the entire night. Ole Miss bats once again did not show up. With hits from Burford and Calvin Harris, the Rebels were 2-for-29 on the night.
It is correct to say Ole Miss baseball has been struggling without its ace pitcher Hunter Elliott out due to injury, but at what point do we agree that we can’t blame everything on that?
The offense has just not shown up this weekend. The Rebels have been outscored 20-2 in the last two days and have fallen victim to Vanderbilt pitcher Hunter Owen’s first complete-game shutout of the season.
Bianco didn’t have much to say after the game besides giving credit to Vanderbilt pitcher Hunter Owen and Ole Miss starting pitcher Saunier.
“If we want to try and find a silver lining, I thought that was Saunier’s best outing of the year,” Bianco said. “Unfortunate, he just started to run out of gas there in the fifth, and they were able to put a big inning together, but I thought he was really sharp.”
Xavier Rivas took the mound for Ole Miss on Saturday and the lineup for the final game was significantly different than what we saw this weekend. Judd Utermark took TJ McCants’ spot in the outfield and Gonzalez was no longer the leadoff hitter.
Chatagnier moved up in the batting order, causing nostalgia for Rebels fans. What Bianco did seemed to work as Gonzalez put the Rebels on the board first, with a home run to right-center field.
Rivas does his job by sitting the first nine batters down in order. The Commodores didn’t get a baserunner until the fourth inning.
After having very few hits this weekend and no home runs, the Rebel bats seemed to be heating up. Harris homered to right-center to scratch across another run.
The bottom of the fourth inning proved to be difficult for Rivas as he gave up two free bases, which led to three runs. Ole Miss had no response in the next frame, but Rivas came back and sat the batters down in order.
While still sitting at a score of 3-2 in favor of Vanderbilt and having Enrique Bradfield, one of the fastest players in college baseball on first base, JT Quinn entered to pitch.
Without even throwing his first pitch, Quinn picked off Bradfield at first base for a huge first out. His outing was short-lived as the right-handed pitcher gave up a run and left two on base for sophomore Mason Nichols to take care of.
The Commodores’ bats proved to be a problem again as they tacked on four more runs in the inning. An error by Gonzalez scored one, and the choice to fill the bases with an intentional walk backfired.
Vanderbilt got a comfortable 7-2 lead and the Rebels couldn’t come back. They only added one hit after the sixth and came up with no runs.
The ninth inning showed possible promise for Ole Miss as they had Kemp Alderman and Harris on base with only one out, but Gonzalez lined into a double-play that ended the game.
The Rebels ended up losing 7-2 and were swept by Vanderbilt. After the first weekend of SEC play, Ole Miss is now 14-6 and riding a four-game losing streak.
The Rebels host Arkansas Pine Bluff on Tuesday, Mar. 21 at 6:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.