It's hard to tell right now what to make of this Ole Miss baseball team.
We're 9-2, which is a great start, but the competition has not been spectacular either. Tulane generally puts a good product on the field, but after watching them in person part of the weekend, I'm not so sure the Green Wave are more than an above average team on its best day.
Looking a little closer at each of the three games this weekend shows a somewhat unsettling trend.
Ole Miss claims victory over Tulane, 6-4. Matt Snyder was knocked out of the game after a collision at first dislocated his shoulder. I was told this was the same shoulder Snyder dislocated in high school, which took him two weeks to recover at the time. There were also reports that Snyder tweaked his hamstring on the play.
However, Miles Hamblin knocked a three-run HR to lead the Rebels to victory. The game centered around a back-up player's timely hit, and the Rebels' lack of middle relief.
After starter Drew Pomeranz baffled Tulane for six innings, only giving up one run, Brett Huber gave up three runs in two innings. Huber showed promise early this season, but he seemed to hit a wall this weekend. David Goforth came in for the save.
I must say that upon parking the car in a nearby neighborhood, picking up our tickets and entering Turchin Stadium, I was fairly impressed with the facility. There were no nutria to be seen anywhere, and cold beer was sold throughout the concession areas. The fans near us were good people with thick Cajun/Creole/Orgeron accents.
Alex Yarbrough, you're fantastic. If you haven't heard of this kid yet, then start listening and you're a bad Rebel. Yarbrough went 3 for 5 Saturday with two doubles and for the season is now batting .438. Hamblin chipped in a couple more RBI in his replacement duty and was fairly serviceable in the field.
Aaron Barrett had another quality start for the Rebels throwing 6.1 innings and giving up only one run. He continues to lead the team in ERA with a 0.98 mark. Barrett did show some signs of fatigue and loss of control around the fifth and sixth innings. He pitched into a jam in the seventh and was relieved by Matt Tracy.
Tracy is second on the team in ERA and threw 2.2 shutout innings though leaving the bases loaded in the ninth upon his departure. Goforth came in again to close out the game.
The issue here is that Tracy could be in line to be the Sunday starter as Rothlin has started to struggle. Unfortunately, this would further hurt our middle relief ability.
Yarbrough and Tim Ferguson combined to go 6 for 7, but Rothlin absolutely could not keep runs from getting plated Sunday giving up five runs in 3.2 innings pitched.
The Rebel bullpen then went through four pitchers to complete the game, giving up six runs in 5.1 innings. Eric Callendar and Jordan Cooper both struggled on the bump in the relief effort. Tulane was able to use base hits to slowly but surely score runs in bunches.
This was how the Tulane offense operated: player gets a single, another player gets a single and then everyone else looks for an extra base hit or some way to get on base and move everyone around. It's simple. It's baseball.
There's not much I can really say about a 12-4 loss. It was ugly, but at least, Ole Miss pulled two out of three in the series.
The middle relief concern may be overblown. Our fielding was solid throughout the series, and our starting pitching did not let us down two out of three times.
However, the team has to improve as we enter the tougher parts of our schedule. Austin Peay will come in looking to topple a top 25 team at least once when we play in midweek. Then Louisville will offer the greatest challenge of the season so far.
Our pitching has been better than expected so far, but our hitting has been somewhat of a disappointment. Losing Matt Snyder hurts, but other players, including Matt Smith and Mike Snyder, have to step up in his absence and provide the long balls and extra base hits that will win games. Smith looked like the freshman version of himself this weekend, not laying off pitches out of the zone and unsure at the plate.
The season is still very young, which is the best thing going for the Rebels right now. That, and our starting pitching and defense.