No. 4 Ole Miss (14-4, 1-0) snapped a two-game skid on Friday night as it started SEC play with a win, defeating Auburn in a pitchers’ duel at Swayze Field.
Gunnar Hoglund continued his journey as a demigod this season. The Rebel right hander hurled eight scoreless innings, fanning 13 in the process and eclipsed the century mark in pitches. The Rebel offense was largely nonexistent throughout the night, partially due to it being a Friday night in the SEC and seeing an opposing team’s ace and partially due to just not being productive at the plate.
Auburn’s starter, Cody Greenhill, wasn’t overpowering with his stuff, topping out in the high 80’s, but it proved effective as Ole Miss failed to get to him through most of the night.
The deciding run came in the bottom of the eighth when Calvin Harris, pinch hitting for John Rhys Plumlee who gained the start in centerfield, hit a solo shot to the student section for his first collegiate home run.
His emergence could be important if he keeps on that track. Arm surgery last fall will keep him off the field defensively, but he could be penciled in at DH more moving forward in place of the struggling Ben Van Cleve and the injured and struggling Cael Baker.
Speaking of Baker, his injury that came against Louisiana Tech has shuffled Ole Miss’ defensive alignment. Swiss army knife Justin Bench was moved to third last night, Plumlee got the start in center, and Tim Elko got the nod at first base. According to Mike Bianco, Trey LaFleur is out for about three weeks with mono, so I expect we’ll see this lineup and others through the first few weeks of SEC play.
Anyway, here are some takeaways from Friday night’s win:
- The offense is struggling. There’s no way around that. Sure, you faced a team’s Friday night arm, and runs are usually at a premium on Friday nights, but the bats need to figure it out through the rest of this weekend and heading deeper into SEC play.
- Gunnar Hoglund is magnificent. We discussed in the Red Cup Slack channel that he probably should get the ball on Friday nights moving forward, even once Doug Nikhazy is healed from his injury. Doug’s stuff is electric, but it will also be electric on Saturdays if Bianco decides to keep Gunnar on Fridays. His swing-and-miss stuff is elite, and he’s making himself some money for the future this season if he can keep this up.
- Even with the struggling offense, a win is a win, especially in SEC play. If you’re Ole Miss, you have to take every win you can in this league, especially these next two weekends against Auburn and Alabama before facing Florida, Mississippi State and Arkansas. Heading into that gauntlet with two series wins can only help your case for a regional host and a potential national seed. This goes without saying, but conference play is the most important part of the year. Starting that slate 1-0 is much better than the inverse.
The Rebels will continue their series with Auburn today with a 1:30 start time before wrapping up the series tomorrow. Games are being broadcast on SEC Network +.