Ole Miss baseball 2018’s opening weekend is officially in the books, and the Diamondsharks whipped off a 3-0 sweep of Winthrop, one of last season’s real contenders in the Big South. The weekend sweep completes the third-straight such blanking of a season-opening opponent, after Ole Miss bested East Carolina in 2017 and Florida International in 2016.
It goes without say that Winthrop and ECU and FIU don’t represent the class of NCAA baseball currently, but strong pitching backed up by solid hitting over this weekend’s three-game tilt hopefully bode well for the Rebs’ season aspirations moving forward. After all, Ole Miss enjoys an embarrassment of hard arms both in the rotation and bullpen, and the Rebs’ batters ability to consistently manufacture runs here from the outset looks encouraging, especially considering they were facing some of the best of what the Big South has to offer.
We’re still a long way off from June and the college baseball tournament, but the Diamond Rebs at least confirmed a few early assessments we held heading into this season.
The pitching staff impressed.
Ryan Rolison threw five innings of solid work in Friday’s opener, striking out 12 batters and allowing just two walks and no runs. He ran into trouble in the sixth and handed off to Houston Roth, who surrendered two runs over the next three innings. No matter, though, since seven runs from the Rebel offense was enough to cover for the pen’s struggles.
Brady Feigl presided over Saturday’s proceedings, and his six innings of work saw no runs surrendered and six strikeouts. That’s a fine outing for a Saturday guy who Mike Bianco should consider moving to Friday duties.
But for Sunday, the Rebel bats were present and accounted for.
Seven runs on Friday and eight on Saturday. Not bad at all.
Sunday was a different story, though, as Winthrop’s skipper elected to throw his No. 1 ace in the weekend’s last game. The Rebs could only net three runs, which was of course enough to hold off Winthrop in the sweep, but James McArthur got chased after five innings of work. Mac allowed four hits and one earned run, but the bulls of Ole Miss’ pen were there to contain the mess and preserve the series sweep.
Still, though, after 15 runs manufactured across Friday and Saturday combined, just three on Sunday brings back shades of last season’s glaring weaknesses at the plate, notwithstanding the Rebs’ depth on the hill. Sure they’re swinging against one of last year’s Big South pitchers of the year contenders, but it’s that caliber of stuff Ole Miss will be facing down deep into the SEC season. Let’s hope they can find consistency over the dish.
All in all, though, a great, fun opening weekend, and an encouraging follow-up sweep to the two before this one. Winthrop is no pushover and will almost certainly repeat as regular season champs in the Big South Conference.
The Rebs host Memphis on Tuesday for a mid-week one-off, then Tulane comes to Oxford for a full series. We’re into it now, folks.