Yea, yea, it was Stetson. No need to get all excited.
Even still, the Ole Miss baseball team looked about as good as could be desired during a three-game sweep of the Hatters (that's their real nickname) in Deland, Fla. to open the 2014 season. The new-look rotation was nearly un-hittable and the bullpen was equally dominant. The bats showed uncharacteristic pop, particularly those of Auston Bousfield and Will Allen, two guys that will be crucial to the overall success of the lineup. The new players, including the host of freshmen pushed into the starting lineup, looked like seasoned vets.
All-in-all, the Rebels outscored Stetson 26-3 on the weekend and showed enough potential to invoke a glimmer of optimism in even the most ardent of pessimists. But like I said, it was just Stetson...
Friday: Ole Miss 7, Stetson 0
Time will tell whether Chris Ellis can be a legitimate No. 1 option in the SEC, but he got off to a hell of start in the season opener by tossing six scoreless innings and allowing just four hits. The real pitching story, however, was Wyatt Short, a lefty freshman that racked up four strikeouts in two hitless innings of relief work. He's just five-foot-eight. And his name is Short. Six-foot-nine Hawtin Buchanan came in for the close, marking what I feel has to be the biggest release-point shift in the history of Ole Miss baseball.
The offense was opportunistic, which is just a nice way of saying Stetson's defense sucked. Four of the Rebs' seven runs were unearned thanks to three Stetson errors. Still, the fact that Sikes Orvis went yard and Auston Bousfield finished 3-for-3 is encouraging.
Saturday: Ole Miss 11, Stetson 1
After going 0-for-4 on Friday, Austin Anderson went 4-for-6 to lead a Rebel offense that piled up 18 hits on the night. Will Allen put one out of the yard to pick up three of his five RBIs and Bousfield stayed hot with a 2-for-4 outing. You knew things were going the Rebels' way when Will Jamison, of all people, hit a homer. WILL JAMISON DROPPIN' BOMBS Y'ALL.
JUCO transfer Christian Trent was nearly flawless in his Rebel debut, relying on a nasty southpaw slider to limit the Hatters to one run on three hits over six innings, striking out six in the process.
Sunday: Ole Miss 8, Stetson 2
After hitting just 23 homers all of last season (third worst in the SEC), Ole Miss's three dingers on Sunday put them at five for 2014 just three games in. Preston Overbey, who led the team with five homers last season, sent out back-to-back solo shots and Allen picked up his second of the year with a two-run bomb in the ninth.
Sam Smith grabbed the win with a five-inning, two-hit outing. For a guy that averaged under five innings per start last season, though, you'd like to see him going deeper into games. Stetson's only runs came in the eighth against Aaron Greenwood. Greenwood was blowing leads left and right at the end of last season, so two runs in his first outing of 2014 is a bad sign. Bianco wants to use him as the closer, but that might have to be reevaluated.
- Six players recorded the first hits of their Rebel career over the weekend. Errol Robinson started all three games at shortstop and went 4-for-10, while J.B. Woodman started two games and went 3-for-10 with a pair of RBIs. Both are freshmen, and it's encouraging to see them produce this early.
- Through three games, Will Allen is nearly halfway to matching his home run and RBI totals for the entirety of last season. He had four homers and 23 RBIs as junior -- he had two homers and 10 RBIs against Stetson.
- As a staff, the Rebels gave up just 14 hits and three runs over 27 innings. That equals a 1.00 ERA. They struck out 24 Hatters while walking just seven. Stetson looked like a bad hitting team, but still, for an Ole Miss club replacing two-thirds of its weekend rotation and its top two bullpen arms, that's a pretty damn good start.
Past the foul pole
- Chipper Jones, whose dad once coached at Stetson, threw out the opening pitch on Friday night. He short-hopped it in the dirt, but at least managed to avoid burning the stadium down.
- The Stetson media situation was a joke, especially the live feed. For 10 bucks, Rebel fans got to tune into a shitty video that some dude was shooting with his iPhone that glitched every five seconds and was literally 20 minutes behind the action. On top of that, the internet situation in the media booth was apparently awful, prompting Richard Cross to troll during a live radio broadcast: "2014 seems like a good year to get past internet issues in semi-urban environments."
- It's come to my attention that the coaches' nickname for Sam Smith is "Sunday Sizzle". It goes without saying that he'll be referred to as Sunday Sizzle in this column from this point on, regardless of whether he continues to pitch on Sundays or not.
Tweet of the week
On Saturday, freshman Errol Robinson was plunked in the head directly on the heels of a Rebel home run, prompting a warning from the umps and a tweet from the former King of Hit by Pitches.
@errol_robinson6 I see you starting fireworks hahaha many more intentional HBPs coming. Hope you're alright. Go sweep tomorrow! Good luck— Tanner Mathis (@tgmathis12) February 16, 2014
In defense of pitchers, Tanner Mathis is a really easy person to throw a baseball at. I don't know what Errol did wrong, though.
Feb. 19: vs. UT-Martin
Feb. 21-23: vs. Georgia State