With the not-so-friendly confines of Baton Rouge waiting in the wings, the Rebels had to take advantage of the atmosphere of Swayze to sweep a series against the Aggies. A 5-4 win on Thursday and a 3-2 triumph on Saturday was bookended by a 13-3 Friday win that got out of hand in the late innings.
First Base: Starting Rotation Performed in a Big Spot
For the first time this season, all three starting pitchers in a series completed five innings of work. Will Ethridge, Doug Nikhazy and Gunnar Hoglund all completed at least six innings with Ethridge going eight and Nikhazy finishing seven. The reliable relief pitching that Ole Miss has in the bullpen has been run ragged over the last few weekends and midweek games with starting pitching getting pulled early.
Austin Miller, Parker Caracci and company have been tasked with putting fires out on a regular basis. The starters spread six earned runs across the 21 innings of work. Their command was as good as it can be with only one walk over those innings. Eliminating the unforced errors allows them to keep pitch count low.
The seven innings from Nikhazy and eight from Ethridge are well within their abilities. However, Hoglund has been operating on a short leash. Mike Bianco tends to pull him out of the game at the first sign of trouble. Saturday was different. For the first time this season, the freshman recorded an out in the sixth inning. He completed six innings. He did not walk a batter.
This is the kind of start Ole Miss needs out of Hoglund. As the third starter, the bullpen could be worn out from the first two games. This needs to become a regular occurrence. This is a step in the right direction.
Second Base: Sweeping a Series Against a Lefty-Dominated Rotation is a Positive
Struggles against left-handed pitching are well documented. The Aggies rolled out two of the better left-handed starters in the SEC on Thursday and Friday.
The lineup only scored four runs against John Doxakis and Asa Lacy, but the two gave up eight walks and 10 hits to the Rebels. The at-bats were better. The offense saw pitches better.
Anytime this team faces a left-handed starter, the goal should be to get to the bullpen as quick as possible. On Thursday, a reliever took the loss for the Aggies. On Friday, Lacy’s downfall came in the sixth inning after the Aggies had grabbed a one-run lead in the top of the inning.
The two runs he gave up in the inning were enough to earn him the loss, even though the bullpen was on the hook for 10 runs.
Third Base: Bullpen Matched Starters in Shutting Down the Aggies
Giving up three runs per game against a top-six program is the reason Ole Miss leaves this weekend with a sweep. Starting pitching had a lot to say about that, but the bullpen shut the door in the two one-run games. Taylor Broadway finished the day on Friday after Nikhazy left with a large lead. He surrendered a solo home run to Braden Shewmake, which had no bearing on the outcome of the game.
Parker Caracci and Austin Miller were the only other pitchers necessary out of the bullpen this series. Caracci got the win on Thursday after lasting three extra innings. He allowed no hits in the three innings but allowed Ole Miss to fall behind in the top of the 11th inning before the offense walked it off in the bottom half. The Ole Miss closer then got the win on Saturday after one inning of work.
Miller entered the game on Saturday after Hoglund allowed a leadoff triple. An RBI groundout was all the Aggies could muster against Miller as he limited the visitors to one hit. These two have been the most reliable arms entering the game for Ole Miss in SEC play. This weekend is another example of how the Rebels can lean on these two late in games.