After nine innings on Tuesday and a 10-6 loss to North Alabama, things were quite bleak for Ole Miss baseball. The Lions, who were sporting a RPI of 285 at the time of first pitch, dominated the Rebels just a few days after they had taken two-of-three from Arkansas in Fayetteville.
So how does a team that defeated a top 10 Southeastern Conference team on the road lose to a team that is 14 points away from being LAST IN COLLEGE BASEBALL?
So fast forward to Sunday after the Rebels suffered a brutal quadrant four loss during the midweek and now Ole Miss is not only at the top of the SEC West standings, but they’re top 25 in the RPI?
It was a dominant weekend for Ole Miss (23-10, 8-4) who tied a school record for runs scored during a SEC series, whipping Kevin O’Sullivan’s Gators (21-13, 4-8) by a total score of 40-18. Mike Bianco’s club showed zero signs of whatever the hell that was on Tuesday, beating Florida to a pulp with a relentless offensive barrage and fantastic relief pitching in all three games. In fact, the Rebels had not one, not two, but SIX players dialed in at the plate this weekend, helping them overcome an eight-run deficit in game three.
A few of those names are incredibly good to see on this list. Kessinger had been struggling BIG-TIME until conference play started. Now that he is seeing it well, it’s a fantastic sign for the Rebels. He is a table-setter in the leadoff spot and can get things going before guys like Tyler Keenan and Thomas Dillard get up in RBI situations. In 12 SEC games, he is hitting .404 with 21 hits, 7 doubles, 13 RBI’s, and has scored 12 runs. Is that good?
The other, Cockrell, is someone who has been on daggum life support this year, hitting just .239 so far. He has been snakebitten by off-speed all of 2019 and leads the the team in strikeouts (29). Maybe this weekend was a sign of things to come with him?
As a team, the Rebels are hitting at a .299 clip and appear to be trending in the right direction quite rapidly. Olenek is now at .399, Dillard leads the team with 74 total bases, Keenan is tied for the team lead with nine home runs, and Cooper Johnson is hitting .295 and slugging at a .511 clip. He’s also been pretty good behind the plate as well.
On the mound, it was more of the same from Doug Nikhazy in game two. The true freshman was filthy, baffling the Gators for six innings and only allowing one run while striking out six with just one walk. He threw 69 strikes (nice), scattered seven hits, and was able to maneuver his way out of several jams with his swing and miss stuff.
Game one on the other hand was a bit of a conundrum. Junior Will Ethridge dealt with yet another blister issue and had to leave the game after just 3.2 innings. But, this was a chance for Tyler Myers to announce his candidacy for a potential spot in the rotation. Despite losing his scoreless innings streak due to two home runs, he went 5.2, struck out four, and didn’t give up a hit outside of the round-trippers. Could he be in line to take over on Sunday if no one else steps up?
Oh, and Parker Caracci is still good.
After Saturday’s doubleheader sweep, Ole Miss is now tied for first with Arkansas and LSU with an 8-4 record. Of course, if this were to hold, the Rebels have the tiebreaker because of their series win last weekend over the Hogs. But, me thinks the West is going to continue to fluctuate. Especially because series with Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn, and Mississippi State still remain on the schedule.
Now, with all this said, Tuesday’s loss is still gut-wrenching and inexcusable. But, SEC series wins certainly outweigh shitty midweek losses. In fact, most people who make decisions when it comes to hosting and seeding think midweek games don’t exactly matter. Nevertheless, losing a game like that before sweeping a SEC East juggernaut shows a lack of focus and leadership.
Here’s to hoping it doesn’t happen again.