One pitch away. One. Pitch. Away.
That's how close the Ole Miss baseball team was to winning a series over South Carolina, the top-ranked team in college baseball. After grabbing the Friday night opener with a dramatic grand slam from Auston Bousfield, the Rebs had the Gamecocks down to their final strike on Saturday before a two-run shot tied the game and swung the series into Carolina's favor.
As much bemoaning and dejected utterances of WAOM as there's been (and make no mistake, that game was WAOM as hell), you still have to come away from last weekend feeling encouraged. It might not have been a series win, but by putting the No. 1 team in the country on the ropes and outplaying them for the better part of three games, the Rebs have proved that they're a legitimate contender in the SEC. Even with Chris Ellis struggling on Friday, the pitching was phenomenal all weekend (save for the one mistake from Josh Laxer that allowed the game-tying blast in Game 2). While the bats continued to struggle bringing in runs, they looked solid all-in-all against perhaps the best pitching team in the country.
Yea, dropping that series sucked, but there's a lot of baseball yet to be played.
Here's your recap of the week that was.
Last week: 3-2
Overall: 17-4 (1-2 SEC)
As it should be, the Rebs weren't punished very much for dropping a hard-fought road series against the No. 1 team. Ole Miss fell no more than two spots in any of the major polls, and actually bumped up one in Baseball America.
USA Today Coaches' Poll: 14 (previous: 12)
Baseball America: 20 (21)
NCBWA: 15 (14)
Collegiate Baseball: 16 (16)
Tuesday: Ole Miss 2, SELA 1
If you're wearing a porno 'stache, you're going to make it all the way around the bases (swidt?). Sikes Orvis and his upper lipholstery drilled a solo shot in the sixth inning to break a 1-1 deadlock. Trouble with bringing men in to score continued, most notably in fourth inning when the Rebels loaded the bases with no outs but could only scratch across one run. Freshman Wyatt Short, who has been incredible this season, snagged the first save of his career.
Wednesday: Ole Miss 8, SELA 3
That score is a bit misleading. This was a tie game in the seventh and the Rebs plated four runs in the top of the ninth to break open what had been yet another close contest. In what's become somewhat of a trend, the big late inning was sponsored by errors by the opposition (three of them in the ninth). Brantley Bell continued ripping the cover off the ball, contributing four of his team's 16 hits.
Friday: Ole Miss 6, South Carolina 4
Having lost an early one-run lead, the Rebs were on the ropes after allowing South Carolina to surge ahead with a three-spot in the fourth. But with the bases loaded with two outs in the sixth inning, Auston Bousfield finally delivered the big hit this team has been starving for. He hammered a no-doubt grand slam out to left on a 2-0 pitch to push the Rebs to a 6-4 lead, and Aaron Greenwood (I was screaming at the TV when he came in), Short and Josh Laxer combined to hold the Gamecocks hitless over the final 3⅔ innings to preserve the win. Both starters struggled in what was billed as a pitcher's duel, each going over 90 pitches by the sixth inning. Chris Ellis gave up his first earned runs of the season, allowing three on 10 hits.
Saturday: South Carolina 5, Ole Miss 4 (10 innings)
Ole Miss played perhaps it's best 8 innings of the season in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. They came out hammering the ball, scoring four runs in the first three innings. Christian Trent was terrific, allowing one run off six hits and racking up six strikeouts through six innings. With Short having cruised through the eighth inning, Mike Bianco called on Laxer -- who had been dominant up to that point -- to close out a 4-1 game. The Rebs had the Gamecocks down to two outs, two strikes with a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth… and then the WAOM struck. Max Schrock, who wasn't even supposed to play for Carolina thanks to a sprained ankle, hammered a game-tying home run to right field to send it to extras. The Rebs put a man on third in the top of the 10th, but failed to plate him, and South Carolina walked off in the bottom of the inning (with the game-winner coming off of Greenwood, of course).
(If masochism is your thing, you can watch the entire ninth-inning debacle here. WARNING: side effects may include sobbing quietly by yourself over a fifth of bourbon. Full game highlights are below.)
Saturday: South Carolina 3, Ole Miss 1
The Rebs put up a valiant effort considering the body blow they'd taken an hour before, but this series was over with Schrock's homer in Game 2. The Gamecock's pitching staff held Ole Miss to one run on seven hits, and although the Rebels were able to tie it up in the fourth, Carolina runs in the fifth and ninth innings pushed the game out of reach. Pressed into action a day early because of the doubleheader, Sam "
Sunday Saturday Sizzle" Smith had his best -- and longest -- outing of the season, allowing two runs off five hits in seven innings.
2014 Chase for the Cups
With no home games this week, the Cup standings were stagnant.
Tweet of the week
I actually have to go with two this week, because this second Orvis-themed tweet is just too good to pass up.
Blake Bortles' little brother plays baseball for Ole Miss, along with Sikes Orvis, the apparent bastard son of John Kruk.— William Duke (@duke_william) March 16, 2014
March 19: vs. Arkansas State
March 19-21: vs. Missouri