On a cold night with a cold offense, Ole Miss held on to beat Alabama 1-0 to open SEC play on Friday.
Friday night starter Will Ethridge threw six innings of three-hit, scoreless ball and struck out nine while also walking four. Ethridge attributes his four walks to a loss of command early-on in the game.
“Arm felt great,” Ethridge said. “I just lost command. I was trying to be too perfect out there in the first two innings and walked some guys, and that’s just not me. I just need to go back there and pound the strike zone and fill it up and just keep it rolling like it was from the third (inning) on.”
For Ethridge, this was his first Friday night start in the SEC, and he enjoyed the moment and focused on his job of limiting runs from the Crimson Tide.
“It felt great being out there,” Ethridge said. “I just know that our guys had my back, and they’re going to make plays, and it might just be a one-run ballgame. It’s my job to go out there and put up zeroes.”
Ethridge’s zeroes on the scoreboard were needed as Ole Miss’ recent offensive struggles continued, accumulating six hits but stranding seven baserunners, including two in the first, sixth and seventh innings. Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco believes that Alabama’s starting pitcher Sam Finnerty pitched well and the Rebel lineup didn’t look sharp in its first SEC test.
“I don’t know, besides the almost no-hit (against) East Carolina if (we’ve been) dominated as much by a pitcher this year,” Bianco said. “We just looked out of sync. We just looked behind the fastball, out in front of the breaking stuff. We just didn’t look comfortable today, and I just think that has more to do with how well he pitched.”
Ole Miss’ lone run came from a solo home run by Cole Zabowski in the second inning who hit a breaking ball over the bullpen in right field.
“After the fastball in, I knew there was a chance he was going to come with that offspeed (pitch) after that,” Zabowski said. “So I just looked for it up in the zone, and I got it, and it’s nice not to miss it.”
While Zabowski had no idea that his home run would be the deciding factor, he emphasized his team’s willingness to win both low-scoring and high-scoring games when they present themselves throughout the season.
“We say that all the time, ‘It takes all kinds,'” Zabowski said. “We want to win the ones that are 1-0, (and) we want to win the ones that are 10-8. We’ve just got to come out here and compete every day.”
The Rebel bullpen had another good night with Austin Miller pitching 1.1 innings of hitless ball and striking out two before giving way to Parker Caracci who picked up a five-out save, his third save on the year.
Although Miller did not allow a baserunner in his four outs of work, when he reached a deep count with Alabama’s Joe Breaux, Bianco made the decision to bring in Caracci.
“I think watching (Miller) run a three-ball count, (velocity) maybe drop a mile or two, you’ve got one of the best closers in the country, you better bring him in,” Bianco said. “Even though he got the first out, when he ran it to three-ball count, I thought, ‘We need to get (Caracci) into the game.'”
Ole Miss and Alabama will continue their three-game series tomorrow with first pitch scheduled for 1:30 p.m.