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Right Field Review: Ole Miss sweeps Furman, but the offense is still in a slump

The bad news: the Rebels tallied just five earned runs all weekend. The good news: the Rebels didn’t allow a single run all weekend.

Josh McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics

The Furman series was supposed to be an opportunity for Ole Miss to break out of worrisome hitting slump in the final weekend before SEC play. But while the Rebels were able to get off their losing skid with a three-game shutout, they don't seem to be any nearer to turning things around at the plate.

The five runs Ole Miss put up on Saturday was its highest scoring output in the last eight games, but that came on just three hits. The nine hits on Sunday were also a high-water mark during that span, but every one of them were singles and only four of them occurred in the same inning.

The hitting numbers are sobering:

  • Ole Miss is averaging 1.6 runs and 4.9 hits per game over the last eight games.
  • Ole Miss’ team batting average has dipped to .249, which ranks dead last in the SEC.
  • None of the Rebels’ everyday starters are hitting above .300.

We know this team is capable of hitting—we saw it as Ole Miss battered its way to sweeps of ranked teams during the first two weekends. But they’ll have to turn things around ASAP if they hope to compete in SEC play, which begins this weekend against No. 22 Vandy.

Scores and highlights

Friday: Ole Miss 2, Furman 0

Saturday: Ole Miss 5, Furman 0

Sunday: Ole Miss 1, Furman 0

3 big takeaways

1. Ya know who did hit the ball? Michel Fitzsimmons.

The sophomore slugger accounted for three of the weekend’s five RBI. He started over Cole Zabowski at first base on Saturday, a decision that looked pretty damn smart when Fitzsimmons hammered a two-run homer over the fence in the second inning.

With Ole Miss locked in a dreary, scoreless tie in the eighth inning on Sunday, it was Fitzsimmons who delivered a clutch, pinch-hit single to drive in the game’s only run.

2. Ole Miss’ pitching didn’t allow a run all weekend.

You don’t need much run support when your pitching staff is keeping opponents off the scoreboard. If we back up to the two-game midweek series against Georgia State, Rebel pitchers have allowed just 21 hits and two runs over the past 47 innings. That’s an ERA of 0.67.

Pitching was potentially a problem coming into the weekend—typical Saturday starter James McArthur sat out with a minor forearm strain, forcing Brady Feigl to take over on Saturday and freshman Greer Holston to start on Sunday. But Feigl and Holston combined to allow just five hits over 15 innings of work. Friday saw David Parkinson take a no-hitter into the eighth and finish with a career-high nine strikeouts.

McArthur should be ready to take the Saturday spot back this weekend, which sets up an interesting decision for Mike Bianco on Sunday. The fact that Feigl had been struggling in the starting role before his shutdown performance against Furman had convinced a lot of folks that freshman Will Etheridge (who struck out 10 during 7.2 scoreless innings on Wednesday) was poised to take over on Sundays. However, putting the freshman on the mound for the opening SEC series might be a bit harder after watching Feigl fan 10 Furman batters over the weekend.

3. Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles are back in the lineup.

The two preseason All-SEC selections sat out the Georgia State games after violating some team rule or another, but they were back by Friday. Trouble is, they didn’t make much of a difference.

Blackman did drive in a key run on Friday, but the pair went 3-for-18 combined on the weekend. Blackman’s average has dipped to .298 (which somehow leads the team) and Bortles’ is all the way down to .217. If this young lineup is going to break out of its slump during conference play, it’ll probably have to start with the two veteran captains.