When J.B. Woodman showed up in Oxford as a high school All-American, he was billed as a five-tool player—baseball's distinguished label for a guy who can do it all. Through his first two seasons, we saw encouraging glimpses of those tools—hitting for power, hitting for average, arm strength, speed and fielding ability—but it wasn't until this, his junior year, that he's shown all five with consistency. With three weeks to go in the regular season, Woodman leads the team in RBI, homers, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and stolen bases, while having just two errors to his name and ranking third in batting average.
Still, we've never seen him put all five tools together the way he did against LSU over the weekend. In a series that Ole Miss absolutely had to have to keep its hosting dreams alive, Woodman did damn near everything but rake the infield (come to think of it, he did help roll out the tarp during Saturday's rain delay). With Woodman crushing homers, gunning runners and making diving grabs, the Rebs took the Thursday and Saturday games to keep themselves in a second-place tie in the SEC West.
1. Hitting for average
Woodman went 2-for-5 on Thursday, 2-for-3 on Friday and 2-for-4 on Saturday, giving him a .500 average for the weekend. Throw in a walk and a hit-by-pitch and he reached base on 57 percent of his trips to the dish.
2. Hitting for power
Woodman smashed three dingers, all of which were two-run shots. One of them came on Thursday in a game that the Rebs won by a lone run; two of them went to dead-center on Saturday.
He added two doubles and a triple for good measure, giving him 19 total bases.
3. Arm strength
He also gunned out three runners at home plate—two of which came in Thursday's 7-6 win and landed him in the SportsCenter Top 10.
(In that last one, the runner was called out for intentionally jarring the ball loose from Henri Lartigue.)
I'm cheating a bit, because this one's actually from the midweek loss to State on Tuesday. The same dude that's sending balls out of the yard to dead center is running out bunt singles.
5. Fielding ability
So during the sixth inning of Game 3 on Saturday, the broadcasters were having a dugout chat with Brady Bramlett. As soon as they started talking about Woodman's insane weekend, guess who showed up...
If you tally up Woodman's eight RBI, five runs scored (though we'll take out the three that came from his homers so we don't count them twice) and three runners thrown out, he effectively contributed 13 runs by himself.
Scores and highlights
Thursday: Ole Miss 7, LSU 6 (box score)
Friday: LSU 6, Ole Miss 3 (box score)
Saturday: Ole Miss 8, LSU 2 (box score)
3 big takeaways
1. The Rebs are back in hosting contention.
It was just a couple weeks ago that we were ready to write off their chances to host a regional, but winning five of their last six SEC games changes things. The conference is likely to get at least five host teams, and most figured the winner of Ole Miss/LSU would become the favorite to earn the fifth spot (the other four are Florida, Texas A&M, South Carolina and Mississippi State).
The stiffest challenge for that fifth spot comes from Vandy, which swept Georgia over the weekend. We'll have a more thoughtful resume comparison later this week, but we'll start with this: Ole Miss has the better RPI (7 vs. 12), strength of schedule (8 vs. 77) and quality series wins (Louisville and LSU vs. South Carolina and Kentucky).
Ole Miss also has the more favorable finish over the last three weeks: a trip to a bad Georgia team, a home series against a fading Kentucky club and the regular season finale against No. 2 A&M. Vandy, meanwhile, is on the road at A&M, on the road at No. 1 Florida and home against Auburn.
2. James McArthur needs to settle down.
So Mike Bianco tried out a new Game 3 starter, sending the freshman McArthur to the hill for his first ever SEC start. McArthur's been absolutely lights out over his last seven midweek starts, but Saturday didn't go so well. He struggled with control, allowing eight of 18 batters he faced to reach base before getting yanked in the fourth inning. None of those base runners came home, but that was more about LSU's lack of clutch hitting (they stranded an incredible 11 runners through the first five innings, eight of which were in scoring position).
In fairness, none of the Ole Miss starters fared well against LSU's aggressive lineup: Brady Bramlett allowed three earned runs in 3.1 innings and David Parkinson gave up four earned runs in 4.2 innings. And there's good reason to suspect that McArthur's rocky outing was just a case of nerves for a freshman not only making his first ever SEC start, but doing so in a game with major postseason implications. A guy who came in with just 10 walks through 44.1 innings allowed four free passes in just 3.1 innings on Saturday. Hopefully he'll settle down and get back to pitching the way he has against midweek opponents.
3. Welcome back, bullpen.
After dominating the early stretch of the schedule, the pen has scuffled a bit over the last month. But with the starters struggling against LSU, the relief arms stepped up big. The Rebel bullpen allowed just three earned runs over 15.2 innings, an ERA of 1.72. Wyatt Short notched his seventh save of the season with a two-inning close on Thursday and Brady Feigl had a pair of impressive outings, including 2.2 innings of no-hit ball at the end of Friday's loss.
Around the SEC
- No. 1 Florida split a rain-shortened series with No. 6 South Carolina
- No. 2 A&M took two of three from Arkansas
- No. 3 Mississippi State took two of three from Alabama
- No. 8 Vandy swept Georgia
- Auburn took two of three from Kentucky
- Mizzou swept Tennessee
Wednesday: vs. UAPB in Oxford
Friday-Sunday: at Georgia in Athens