Ole Miss picked a lackluster spring break destination to Birmingham, where they swept UAB in a two-game, midweek series. Tuesday's 8-1 victory included a dominant, 13-hit performance against UAB's sub-1.00 ERA pitcher. The bats went a bit cold Wednesday, but the Rebs let UAB dig their own grave in a mistake-riddled 5-1 win. The Blazers pitching staff walked six and threw two wild pitches, allowing the Rebs to score five in the fifth inning.
With the Rebs sitting at 17-1 heading into this weekend's SEC opener in Knoxville, a conference record of, let's say, 18-12 would lock Swayze in as a regional host. With a weaker SEC slate this season (the Rebs avoid Florida and Vanderbilt in the East and get Auburn and Bama in seemingly down years), I feel like that sort of conference record is completely obtainable, though historical trends warn us not to read too much into hot non-con starts. A lot will shake out after this opening weekend with two top 25 match ups (Arkansas at South Carolina, MSU at Vandy) and seeing if Ole Miss can continue its winning streak against stiffer competition.
Swayze Swag levels
First Inning Bats: In the Tuesday game, the Rebs scored three runs in the top of the first inning. That pushed the Rebs plating a run in the first inning to 10 out of their 17 first games. They looked to make it to 11 in the Wednesday game, leading off with two singles and JB sac bunting Golsan and Errol to 2nd and 3rd with one out. However, neither Bortles nor Olenek (Tater walked) could bring them home.
Midweek starters: Nozzi posted a career long start of 6.1 innings with four Ks while McArthur went 5.0 innings with five Ks and zero walks. On the season, both are sitting at just under one strikeout per inning (17 in 19.1 and 15 in 16.1 respectively) which is a common metric for how well a pitcher is tossing. I honestly can't remember the last time Ole Miss had TWO midweek starters that could hold their own, much less one. With the progression we've seen so far from Nozzi and McArthur, it should definitely help with the (assumed) loss of some of our weekend rotation for next year.
Colby Bortles: We knew his bat wouldn't stay cold forever. This week Colby went 2-for-7 with two walks, three RBIs and an amazing putout on a suicide squeeze attempt Tuesday which earned him the defensive yellow shirt for Wednesday pregame. Colby leads the team in slugging percentage and barely trails in overall average and on base percentage. Keep smashing brotha.
#FireBianco: DISCLAIMER: I'm a yuuuuuuge Bianco supporter and in no way feel that we should fire Coach B, but that doesn't mean I can't get frustrated with some of his decisions. Example (HOT TAKES INCOMING):
This is the team leader in HR and RBI. 3 hole hitter. In the first inning. #awful https://t.co/hwTJUanQRY— Alex Taylor (@astaylo1) March 16, 2016
I agree with Mr. Taylor wholeheartedly. I completely understand a sac bunt with two on and no outs when you are down by 1-2 runs late in the game...but in the first inning with your team's best bat? Another head scratcher was pulling Henri Lartigue after his monster 3-for-5 with a two-run bomb Tuesday, Fortes got the start Wednesday. I understand that midweek games provide a good opportunity to give your freshmen some experience, but in a game that was closer than the scoreboard suggested, I'd rather keep in our vets in order to lock up those Ws.
Timely hitting: To start the season, it seemed almost anytime a Rebel reached 3rd base, we could get him home. I think the stat I remember hearing was something like, of the 17 instances when the Rebs had a runner on 3rd, that runner scored 15 times. Granted that's an obscene stat that is a bit bloated because of the beginning of the year, but the Rebs struggled to get the big hit in Wednesday's game. They needed a six-walk 5th inning to score all of their runs without a single hit.
GRILLIN' AND CHILLIN' (well, just chillin')
I obviously didn't grill anything at Regions Field but I did imbibe in some delicious brewskis at Good People Brewing Company right across the street from Regions Field. Can you imagine a brewery with high gravity craft beers across the street from Swayze? Students may think twice before tossing that 10% ABV Double-IPA in the air. Here's what I tried and what I thought.
Snakehandler Double-IPA: ABV: 10%, IBU: 100+. I started with their strongest brewski because I like to start strong and finish light. Considering the strength of this Double-IPA, it was extremely drinkable and surprisingly light despite its caramel color. Couldn't hang with a second one.
Hitchhiker IPA: ABV: 7.8%, IBU: 100+. Almost everyone at the bar seemed to be ordering this seasonal IPA which was definitely lighter and smoother than the Snakehandler. This was my favorite beer of the afternoon.
Bearded Lady Wheat Ale: ABV: 4.2%, IBU: 13.3. I wanted to finish my taste tour with some very light and refreshing. The Bearded Lady did not disappoint. Not quite as citrusy as Blue Moon but just enough to let you know it's there.
The Rebs now head to Knoxville to open conference play against a Volunteer team that has the 3rd highest team batting average (.321) in the conference. The Rebs will return to Swayze Tuesday to host UT-Martin for the annual school kid field trip game with a first pitch at 11 a.m. See y'all at Swayze!