The Rebels sit at 15-9 (1-5 SEC) at the moment, and while they started last season 0-6 in Southeastern Conference play before going on a historic postseason run, there are a number of causes for concern in this terrible start to conference play.
Essentially, the offense just hasn’t been there when it needs to be. I know I’ve already written about that, but it’s a recurring theme. This team can’t consistently string together hits. There are some pretty good averages littering the lineup, but overall it’s a pretty rough group. I’ll get into the pitfalls at the plate a bit more later.
The pitching hasn’t been good enough to make up for the problems either. Last season, Kaitlin Lee finished the year with a 1.82 ERA. This season, without facing the meat of the SEC, she is already sitting at 2.56. The staff has allowed, on average, half a run more per game. That’s.... not good.
There have been some bright spots on offense, but there are too many automatic outs.
Let’s start with the strengths of the team so far: bats in the outfield. Sophomore RF Kaylee Horton has been on a tear recently and brought her average to .340, tied for the team lead. Junior DP (designated player) Celeste Wood is right there with her at .340 as well. Senior LF Elantra Cox is hitting a good-but-not-Elantra-Cox-good .333. Remember, she finished last SEASON at .429. Junior CF Kylan Becker, my favorite player on the team, is hitting .310 after finishing last year .375.
The problems come as you get out of the outfield. Sophomore C Autumn Gillespie is averaging .303, which is fine. Past her, the highest average on the team is .255. Then .206. 3-5 regular starters are hitting below .180.
I don’t have advanced stats to show this, but I can tell you one big difference between last year’s team and this one is the clutch hit. Last year’s team had somewhere around 10 walk-off wins. I think this team has just one. It just isn’t doing good things with runners in scoring position.
Something is awry with Brittany Finney.
Junior RHP/1B Brittany Finney had a 1.80 ERA last season in 11 appearances. She hit .240 with a .490 slugging percentage, the best on the team. Her play late in the year was my biggest reason for optimism coming into the season. Finney is currently hitting .040, registering just one hit in 24 plate appearances. She sports a 3.79 ERA.
Finney is an excellent athlete and capable of making a monumental impact on the team. She just isn’t. The Rebels will need the Oklahoma high school home run record holder to break out of this funk if they hope to turn things around.