Ole Miss spring break doesn't start until next week, but the baseball team went and had itself an enjoyable early getaway in the Myrtle Beach area over the weekend. The Rebs went undefeated at the Chanticleer Classic, outscoring their three opponents 22-6 in a trio of easy Ws. Throw in that come-from-behind win against Memphis last Wednesday and it was a perfect week for Mike Bianco's club, which jumped out to a 10-1 record for a third time in the last four seasons.
The only downer from the weekend is that the competition wasn't all that impressive. Saturday's seven-run win over No. 18 Coastal Carolina was stripped of some luster when the host team lost to Cincinnati, which came into the weekend 0-7. Coastal picked up a win over Ball State on Sunday, but went 1-2 at its own tournament and has now lost three of its last four games. At 6-5, the Chanticleers are in danger of dropping out of the top 25.
Still, the Rebs beat who was in front of them. Their next seven games are against SEMO, Grambling State and UAB, so Ole Miss should be sitting on an impressive non-con record when it opens SEC play against Tennessee in two weeks.
Friday: Ole Miss 7, Ball State 3
Saturday: Ole Miss 8, No. 18 Coastal Carolina 2
Sunday: Ole Miss 7, Cincinnati 1
1. Mike Bianco might finally have a reliable Sunday pitcher.
Ole Miss has long struggled to find a quality third starter. Over the past five seasons, the Rebs' winning percentage in Game 3s (.544) has been lower than its overall winning percentage (.596). Not once in those five seasons has Ole Miss had a winning record in Game 3s against SEC opponents.
Which is why it's so damn encouraging that Sean Johnson has filled that role so well recently. He was an absolute beast on Sunday against Cincy, allowing just one hit in 6.0 scoreless innings. Since his opening weekend hiccup against FIU, he's 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA . There's no reason to get too excited until we see what Johnson can do against SEC teams, but don't forget that one of those wins came against No. 2 Louisville.
2. The young bullpen has been lights out.
Arguably the most pleasant surprise of the young season has been the immediate contribution of the young relievers, something that continued in South Carolina. The Rebel bullpen combined for 10.0 scoreless innings and allowed just eight of the 37 batters if faced to reach base ... and that's without Wyatt Short ever taking the mound. Nine of those 10 innings were pitched by underclassman (senior Matt Denny got an inning on Sunday) and seven were pitched by freshmen. Through three weeks, sophomore David Parkinson, redshirt freshman Brady Feigl and true freshmen Dallas Woolfork and Andy Pagnozzi (who pitched against Memphis but not over the weekend) have a combined 1.24 ERA over 29.0 innings.
3. Henri Lartigue brought his bat this time.
On Wednesday against Memphis, highly-touted freshman catcher Nick Fortes made his first start behind the plate. It was an indication that Mike Bianco was perhaps losing patience with Lartigue, who was hitting .182 at the time and had failed to find the fall camp form that earned him the Opening Day cleanup spot. Motivated no doubt by his Wednesday benching, Lartigue responded by going 4-for-7 on Friday and Saturday, bumping his season average up to .276. Bianco isn't done experimenting with Fortes -- he started again on Sunday and went 1-for-4 -- but Lartigue has hopefully turned the corner.
- Errol's early-season slump continues. Even after a two-hit Saturday, he's sitting at .205 for the season.
- Colby Bortles, meanwhile, broke out for a nice weekend. He was the most productive bat on the team during the tourney, 4-for-12 and knocking in five RBI, two of which came on a Friday night dinger against Ball State.
- After going 0-for-7 in Games 1 and 3, Tate Blackman has failed to get a hit in three of the last four games. He helped offset that with a three-hit Saturday and is still batting .378 on the year.
- Rebel pitching only allowed four earned runs the entire weekend. Sunday starter Sean Johnson pitched six innings, gave up one hit and faced one more than the minimum.
- Ole Miss faced all three weekend opponents for the first time in program history.
- Saturday starter Chad Smith earned his first career victory as a Rebel against nationally-ranked Coastal Carolina. The Rebels are now 3-1 on the year against ranked teams.
- Despite the early struggles, the Rebel offense is rolling right now, scoring seven runs or more in four straight games.
Tuesday and Wednesday: vs. Southeast Missouri (6-5) in Oxford
Friday-Sunday: vs. Grambling State (4-7) in Oxford