There are some troubling issues as Ole Miss baseball reaches the final six games of the SEC regular season.
One, the Rebels face their rival at home this weekend, and the Bulldogs have had their number of late. Then the Rebels go on the road to face LSU, one of the two elite teams in the league this season.
With 14 SEC wins last year, Ole Miss was a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Rebels still have some work to do to make the NCAA field.
If you’re looking for the main culprit in the sudden downturn the bullpen is exhibit A. Ole Miss is 2-4 in its last six games and has lost leads in the middle or later innings in each loss.
I focused on Aaron Greenwood in Saturday’s Game 2 at Auburn, but Greenwood has had plenty of help. After he left Saturday’s game Auburn also scored against Chris Ellis. I didn’t hang around for today’s 5-4 Game 3 loss in which Tanner Bailey and Brett Huber struggled.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco earlier this season remarked on the personality of this team and said, and I’m paraphrasing here, if you’re not going to be very good at one phase you have to be very good in the others to pick up the team.
Much of this season Ole Miss has been able to overcome an average offense with pitching and defense. The relief pitching, which looked like a strength a month ago, has turned south, and the offense hasn’t gotten better of make up for that.
The offense is Exhibit B.
The Rebels have a chance to win any game that Bobby Wahl stars. He was very good again at Auburn. But Wahl can only start one game.
With six regular season games left there’s a better chance to fix the relief pitching than to find two or three more run-producing hitters.
With the bullpen there are at least some intriguing options with Jacob Waguespack and Hawtin Buchanan. Both would have played larger roles this season if healthy at the beginning.
Both have been used in mid-week games as they try to work back into shape. Waguespack, a freshman, did not allow a run in his first three appearances. He gave up two runs, one earned, on one hit in 1.1 innings last week against St. Louis. Buchanan had some success last year as a freshman. This year he gave up two runs, both earned, in 1.0 innings against Tennessee-Martin on Feb. 20. Since coming back from tendonitis — also Waguespack’s ailment — he has not allowed a run in four appearances.
These guys are only pitching an inning or a little more at a time.
But they present different right-handed options — arms not likely high up on opponents’ scouting reports right now — to hold precious leads that have slipped away the last two weekends.