After winning big on Thursday night, #11 Ole Miss baseball would fall to #19 Kentucky in the next two games. The Wildcats took Friday’s game 4-2 and then Saturday’s game 4-1 to take the series. The two losses push the Rebels record to 15-9, 3-3 while Kentucky improves to 18-7, 5-1.
After taking 2 of 3 from Vandy last weekend and a big win against UK on Thursday, it seemed Ole Miss baseball would roll away with at least the series. However, that was not the case at all. Kentucky came into the SEC series as the top offensive unit in the conference. They would prove to be good enough to battle the best pitching corp in the SEC, and take the final two games.
One interesting stat, the Wildcats and Rebels had the same number of hits (28) throughout the series. However, the major difference in the stats were runs and errors. Ole Miss recorded 12 runs in the series, while Kentucky recorded 14. The Rebels committed 4 errors total, 2 errors in each of the final games, while UK would only commit 2 in the first game.
Houston We Have A Problem
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I really hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’ve been watching the same games I have, well you know. Baseball games can be, and sometimes are, decided on one play. One missed grounder can mean the difference between a win and a loss. Accordingly, fielding and throwing errors are a part of the game, and have cost us wins.
Where’s The White-out?
Errors cost the Rebels in each of their losses in the series. We all know errors are a big part of baseball, and are especially costly in the close low scoring games we’ve seen. On the season Ole Miss baseball has committed 23 errors, the majority of which have come in losses.
Think of this, according to OleMissSports.com, the 2014 Ole Miss baseball team only committed 74 errors in 69 games. The Rebels are 24 games into a very tough 56 game regular season schedule. Although they are well below a 1 per game average, we have had several multiple error games. I am confident skipper Mike Bianco will right this problem immediately.
In addition to the errors which have been committed, we also have a problem hitting the ball. As a team, Ole Miss baseball is averaging a meager .245 at the plate. In a game where most players average in the lower to mid .300s, if they are hitting well, we are way below average. It may not sound like much but it’s huge. Compare this. In 2014, Ole Miss baseball hit .297 as a team. That team was 48-21 and made the trip to the CWS.
However, this ‘slump’ has not been all doom and gloom. There are bright spots.
The Silver Lining
As hard as it has been watching some Rebel hitters struggle at the plate, there have been players who have emerged as consistent hitters. While Colby Bortles has established himself as the slugger on the team, Ryan Olenek has demonstrated he can hit and has accounted for 10 RBIs while scoring 8. Olenek is ties with Will Golsan for second on the team in RBIs while going 24 for 87 with a slugging % of .361. Although Colby Bortles leads the Rebels in RBIs, Golsan is leading Ole Miss baseball with an average of .290.
Also, Colby Bortles seems to be back to slugging again, which is one of the biggest assets to the Rebels batting order. Of course, we need everyone to hit well, but it sets the pace for the entire team when the captains are playing well. Per OleMissSports.com, Bortles is recognized as one of the best of his class.
"Ole Miss senior Colby Bortles was recognized as one of 30 candidates for the 2017 Senior CLASS Award® in college baseball Monday afternoon."
Colby and Tate Blackman are both exceptional hitters and absolutely necessary for a strong SEC schedule. They are both great players and know the game inside and out. Blackman will work thru his slump. Great players always do.
Once again, Ole Miss pitching was an obvious problem for UK hitters. In total throughout the series, Rebel pitchers would face 111 batters while giving up 28 hits and recording 21 strikeouts. The Ole Miss Rebels allowed only 9 earned runs in the three games. Obviously, the pitching is doing their portion of the work on the mound.
Check out David Parkinson. In his start against Kentucky, he was lights out, giving up 1 earned run in 6.1 innings. Parkinson chalked up 5 Ks in the effort, although the Rebels came up short 4-2.
Ole Miss Baseball Heads Home
Another bright spot in the near future for Ole Miss baseball is the fact they are returning home. The Rebels who are 15-9 overall, happen to be 13-3 at home. This weighs well in the favor of the Rebels as they take on Little Rock in a mid-week match-up. First pitch will be at 11am CT on Tuesday morning at Swayze Field.
The Trojans of Little Rock are 9-15 coming into tomorrow’s game. Little Rock is hitting .273 as a team while slugging an impressive .414. The Sun Belt conference foe’s pitching is also allowing .273 and giving up 4.46 earned runs a game on average. Students should be sure to pack an extra six as Swayze may become a launching pad for outfield shots.
Of course, little brother MSU comes to Oxford later in the week for a 3-game home-stand.
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