Ole Miss swept a pesky Wright State team this weekend in front of the expected fantastic attendance considering great weather and a wantonness for Rebel victories in ANY sport.
The Raiders and Rebels played in front of nearly 25,000 fans in the three game series. Starting pitching was the first thought that hit the minds of our beloved journalists and website gurus after the series.
Or maybe the idea of new composite bats trending towards the real reaction of wood was another story line. The Rebels hit a ton of singles but extra base hits came at a premium.
What I thought was most important from weekend one was the poise shown in difficult situations early in this season by newcomer pitching, spot hitting situations and defense. And can the Rebels be this clutch all season long?Here's a few situations that cropped up and decided the games this weekend and the positive outcomes whether it was breaks, lucks or skill is left to your determination:
1.) Defensive errors allow an early Wright State lead Friday. Matt Crouse, in one of his first starts for Ole Miss, could have very easily folded in this situation. It's his first Friday start, and he's getting very little help from his defense. He probably had the hopes that he would have 6 or 7 innings of shutout ball to give Ole Miss the victory. Instead, he's looking at a crooked letter after miscues in the outfield.
Outcome: Crouse finished out the inning by forcing a groundout, followed by two shut-out innings and the Rebels tacked on 12 runs over the next three innings of play to put the game out of reach by the middle innings.
2.) Relief pitching allows for a 4 run lead to dissolve late on Saturday. David Goforth had given seven masterful innings of shutout baseball. He is really going to give us a chance to win Saturday games throughout the season with efforts like that. Brett Huber had the wheels come off in the eighth inning by allowing a few hits and a walk tighten a four run lead, and Jake Morgan couldn't hold the onslaught of Raiders either from tying the game in the eighth. Wright State had momentum in its favor entering the ninth inning.
Outcome: Morgan buckled down allowing two hits in the ninth and tenth inning including a key defensive play by Alex Yarbrough getting a man advancing from third out on a grounder to second. Yarbrough then hit in the go-ahead RBI to give the Rebels the series in the bottom of the tenth.
3.) RJ Hively's relief appearance goes wrong as Wright State claws back into game Sunday. Hively had a rough outing, allowing three runs while recording only one out though a throwing error did not give him any help in the eighth. The score had been tightened to 6-5, and Saturday's poor performance had to still be on the mind of Huber entering the game.
Outcome: Huber shut down Wright State with five straight putouts, earning his first save of the season and giving Ole Miss a sweep in its season opener for the first time in four years.
These situations were all games within a game. They are situations that you can simulate in practice, but they are not nearly as pressure packed as when 25,000 mildly intoxicated eyes are on you expecting you to make the play. Even though some of the names are not incredibly familiar, it seems this year's Rebel team is playing cohesively early though there's 53 more games to play starting with Memphis and Arkansas State in the mid-week.
I fully expected to drop a game this weekend, and I wouldn't have been eaten up over it. It's early and baseball teams generally improve as the year goes along. If that is the case, we may have a very special year awaiting us.