What a time.
Ole Miss baseball just took you, me, and every other member of Rebel Nation for an insane roller coaster ride this weekend, taking two-of-three from No. 5 Arkansas (19-9, 5-4). The Rebels (25-4, 6-3) used a mixture of timely-hitting, starting pitching going deep into games one and two, and you guessed it, more stellar bullpen production from The Gas Tank.
Despite Thursday’s 6-4 loss, this team just refuses to give a fuck about adversity. Brady Feigl came out and put the team on his back Friday night, limiting hard hit balls from an Arkansas offense that is going to give EVERYONE fits this year, and winning a tight one, 5-4. But, in a game that featured lots of back-and-forth momentum, Torch was there to settle things down when it mattered most.
Then on Saturday, the laser show was on in full-effect. The Rebs and Hogs traded blows like a daggum HBO prize fight in Las Vegas with the good guys coming out on top 11-10. At one point, the good guys led by as many as six runs, but the Razorbacks would simply not go away, scoring runs in the 7th and 8th to force most to hold their collective breath in the final frame when they had the go-ahead run at the plate. But, our son, Parker Caracci was there, once again, to shut the door in front of the fifth-largest crowd in Swayze Field history (11,146).
Ryan Rolison will be fine.
It was another tough outing for Rolo, lasting only 5.1, giving up nine hits, five earned runs, and striking out eight. The command just isn’t there right now. He’s elevating too many fastballs and missing with too many off-speed pitches in plus counts. The velocity and break is there, but the location is not.
Now, with that said, he just pitched back-to-back weekends against the only other teams that hit as well top-to-bottom as the Ole Miss Rebels. The Aggies (.288) and Razorbacks (.313) are relentless, talented, and dangerous from leadoff to nine-hole hitter, and he won’t see that every single weekend. But, as I mentioned above, he has got to hit spots because SEC players more times than not will not miss a belt-high fastball.
No, he won’t be moved from his game one slot. Yes, he will be fine.
Ryan Olenek is back.
The renaissance has been completed it appears. The once struggling upperclassman is now on quite the surge after his weekend feasting on the Arkansas pitching staff. He leads the SEC in doubles (12), 8th in hits, and 10th in batting average (.358). And he now has 12 hits in the last six games.
It was only a matter of time for Oley to settle in, make some adjustments, and start hitting it well. He is a crafty hitter who battles deep into counts, fouls off pitches that are close, and his long arms help bail him out on some pitches that he’s out in front on or swings around. But, there was none of that this weekend. He was hitting a damn beach ball out there at Swayze, lacing everything on a line and barreling everything up.
Chase Cockrell still leads the team with a .403 average, but Olenek is peaking at the right time and is a steady producer for Mike Bianco at the top of the lineup. This team needs Ryan Olenek to be good. And he has been these last two weeks.
Parker Caracci is a Westworld host.
Despite being touched up a bit this weekend, Karate Kid’s ERA is still 0.98 and he’s struck out 38(!) in 20.1 innings. He is now tied for the team lead in saves (6) with Dallas Woolfolk and is becoming legendary with his upper-90’s fastball and knack for the dramatic.
Our flame-throwing son now has five saves in the last seven games. That’s nine days that Caracci has thrown gas and saved five ballgames for Ole Miss. That’s huge. His presence is becoming larger than life on the mound and with his old no. 1 touching 96 and 97 mph in games and his mix of a 82 mph slider, he is more than just smoke.
With that said, please Mike, give the kid a few days off. The Rebels need his arm going down the stretch and the bullpen is deep enough that he does not need to throw that much in a week. But, man is he a treat to watch, huh?
Ole Miss has now back-ended two conference series already this season, the first time that has happened since 2005(!) when they won 48 games and made it within a win of the College World Series. This team is damn good. From top to bottom. The hitting is certainly there, the freshmen are producing, the veterans are coming around after a slow start, and the Gas Tank is better than ever.
Now looking at the rankings, with No. 1 Oregon State losing their series against Utah, there is going to be some shifting in the top five. No. 2 Florida and No. 3 Stanford both took care of business and won their series so it would appear that the Rebs could be in position to sneak into the top three if the Beavers were to fall far enough. Will voters give the Rebs credit for taking down a top five opponent and give them a loftier ranking? We’ll find out on Monday.
The Rebs are now in sole position of first place in the SEC West and are now heading into the second half of the season with 25 wins and a top five ranking in the polls and RPI.
Bianco and Co. have a tall task ahead of them keeping this team locked in and healthy but if they can do it, this season’s fun might have just begun. This week, Ole Miss travels North to Memphis for a midweek clash against the Tigers at AutoZone Park then they go to Starkville for a huge opportunity against the flailing Bulldogs.
Good teams beat bad teams on the road.
Elite teams sweep bad teams on the road.