The momentum of Ole Miss baseball’s unexpected 7-0 start came screeching to a halt last week. After fumbling away yet another home loss to Memphis on Tuesday night, the Diamond Rebs were undone by boneheaded plays and silent bats during a winless trip to Houston, scoring just four runs combined during losses to Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU at the Shriners College Classic.
It’s just one bad week, but it feels like a lot more to an Ole Miss fan base fatigued by nine months of endless bad news. Desperate for anything to take their minds off of NCAA allegations and a bowl-less football season, fans were quick to invest emotional capital in the baseball team’s hot start, which made the subsequent losing streak that much more frustrating.
There’s no way around it: Ole Miss took a major step backwards in Houston last week. But this is still a very talented—and very young—team capable of getting back on track. Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t overreact to the 0-4 skid:
1. Ole Miss played some damn good teams.
Let’s ignore the fact that losing midweek games to Memphis is just a natural law of the universe and discuss the quality of opponent at the Shriners Classic, which was basically an early season Omaha. Baylor entered the weekend 9-0 and got a brilliant, seven-inning, two-hit outing from Friday ace Nick Lewis during its 4-0 win over the Rebs. Losing 5-1 to No. 18 Texas Tech on Saturday is no embarrassment either, especially after the Red Raiders followed that up with a win over No. 4 LSU on Sunday. And TCU, which outlasted an Ole Miss rally to win 5-3 on Sunday, went a perfect 3-0 on the weekend to maintain its stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking.
2. Ole Miss shot itself in the foot a lot.
Of the 18 runs the Rebels allowed during their first three losses, eight of them were unearned. After committing just five errors in their first seven games, the Rebs committed eight against Memphis, Baylor and Texas Tech (they committed one but allowed no unearned runs against TCU).
You’re not going to beat good teams making a bunch of dumb mistakes. Fortunately, Ole Miss is too talented of a defensive team for those mistakes to continue apace. They had a rough week in the field, but don’t expect that to continue.
It’s also worth noting that there was a bug going around the clubhouse this week. Slugger Thomas Dillard and expected starter Will Etheridge missed the Memphis game with the flu and a few others reportedly came down with symptoms. Getting over the flu is hard enough without traveling all the way to Houston to play three baseball games, which could at least in part explain the errors and bad at-bats.
3. It’s just one week.
At the expense of mimicking Mike Bianco’s “That’s baseball” line, this is a game of streaks, and you’re bound to have peaks and valleys during a 53-game season. That’s even more true of this young Ole Miss team, which is regularly starting four true freshmen and replacing two of its three weekend starters from last year. The same freshmen who helped carry the lineup through the first seven games went a combined 4-for-38 last week. That’s kind of expected.
Perhaps the losing streak was just an anomaly. Or maybe it was the 7-0 start was the anomaly. Let’s not overreact to either.