I'll be honest, I thought the series was over after Louisville took a 2-0 lead early in Sunday's rubber match. Yea, the Rebs had split the series up to that point, but Friday night's 6-5 win felt a bit like a gift (first-round MLB Draft pick Kyle Funkhouser collapsed and walked in four runs) and the bats had been silenced altogether in Saturday's 4-0 loss, in which Cardinals starter Brendan McKay allowed just three hits in a complete-game gem.
So it proved a lot about this team's resiliency when it rallied back on Sunday, putting up three unanswered runs and clamping down on the Louisville bats for a 4-2 win, clinching a series over the country's No. 2 team in the process. The Cardinals are absolutely loaded with elite talent: Funkhouser, McKay, closer Zack Burdi and slugger Corey Ray are all MLB-level guys.
There are still plenty of concerns, mind you: the offense was muzzled by Louisville's elite pitching staff on Friday and Saturday, games in which the Rebs were outhit 20-9. Middle relief was a problem on those days as well: the Rebs gave up eight runs after the starters left the first two games. Still, this series proved that Ole Miss is a very dangerous team in 2016.
Scores and highlights
Friday: Ole Miss 6, Louisville 5
Saturday: Ole Miss 0, Louisville 4
Sunday: Ole Miss 4, Louisville 2
1. The new starters are coming around.
After struggling in the opening weekend against FIU, both Sean Johnson and Chad Smith pitched extremely well against a Louisville team that is a legit College World Series contender. Smith was outstanding on Saturday despite the loss, throwing five clean innings before conceding a few runs on the back end due to errors in the field. Smith, who showed much better command of a fastball that climbed into the low 90s, finished the day with one K, two walks and two runs allowed over seven innings. Johnson fought back from a first-inning home run to future first-rounder Corey Ray to toss 5.1 quality innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out five. With the way he was breaking off his secondary stuff not even a year removed from Tommy John surgery, he could be very, very good.
2. David Parkinson continues to impress.
The sophomore from Virginia has only given up one run through six innings so far this year. Parky came out of the pen in big moments on both Friday and Sunday, combining to pitch 2.2 scoreless innings. Out of the 29 pitches Parkinson threw on Sunday, 23 of them were strikes. As a junior college transfer in his first big spot in his young Rebel career, he was lights out. On the season, he's only given up one run in six innings pitched, struck out five and holds a 1.50 ERA. Ole Miss will continue to use him in spot duty to give Will Stokes a rest on the weekends.
3. Tate Blackman is still en fuego.
You know the narrative. He sucked as a freshman. Well, you can take that narrative and shove it because Mr. Blackman is still piping it up two weeks into his sophomore season. After getting one hit in each of this weekend's games, he's extended his hitting streak to seven games and is leading the team with a .524 batting average. The sophomore has a new approach at the plate and looks much more comfortable. Tater has shown power to all fields, going yard to left field in one at-bat and smashing a stand-up double to right center in another. If the Rebels are going to make noise in the postseason, they need Blackman's bat to be a force to be reckoned with.
- This weekend marked the third straight series win over a top-2 team for the Rebels. Ole Miss beat No.1 Vanderbilt and No. 1 Florida in 2015.
- Wyatt "Too" Short earned his third save on the young season. He now has 16 for his career, tied for fifth on the Ole Miss all-time list.
- Yellow Cup lost it's 100th career race on Saturday after he was attacked by a dinosaur.
- Attendance at Swayze has been big this season: Ole Miss has had 10,000+ fans in three of its six home games.
- Sophomore Will Golsan hit his first career home run on Sunday and he got every bit of it.
- Brady Bramlett was once again superb, striking out eight on Friday as he won the head-to-head battle against first-rounder Kyle Funkhouser.
Wednesday: vs. Memphis in Oxford
Friday-Sunday: Coastal Carolina Tournament in Conway, S.C. (vs. Ball State, Coastal Carolina, Cincinnati)