I have Louisiana family in town this weekend and have been away from Ole Miss baseball.
The plan had been for me to cover Game 1 and for Brad Locke, our MSU beat writer, to cover Games 2 and 3. Well, you know what often happens with plans. When Game 1 was postponed Friday night I wrote a rainout story about the uncertainty of Bobby Wahl’s role for the weekend, and suddenly Brad had a Saturday doubleheader.
I sent him a text that said, “That’s baseball.”
I didn’t think I was leaving Brad to cover two Ole Miss wins, but here’s his account of a big Saturday for the Rebels. I thought the greater possibility, given the way the Rebels of late have added bullpen struggles to their average offense, was that they might win only the game in which Wahl pitched. Now they’ll go for a series sweep with Wahl pitching today at 1. Follow @BradLocke for updates.
With the series win over MSU now locked up, the Rebels have beaten the Bulldogs in the league series for the first time since 2010, and Mike Bianco improves to 2-3 against Cohen in conference series play.
It’s amazing how a couple of wins change things. I am guessing that the 14th SEC win — which the Rebels achieved in yesterday’s second game — secured them a spot in the NCAA tournament. If they win today, suddenly they revive the NCAA regional host discussion depending on how they finish next weekend at LSU. A win today and two more at LSU would put Ole Miss at 17-13 in the league with series wins against two top 10 RPI teams over the final two weeks of the regular season.
A whole lot has to happen before you get there, but you have a chance to get there based on timely hitting and strong starting pitching yesterday.
I didn’t see any of the games, so I’m just going on numbers, but it appears that Mike Mayers was outstanding (7 IP, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K) and that Sam Smith in Game 2 was able to absorb nine hits over six innings, because he didn’t walk anybody.
Relief pitching after Smith was something less than brilliant, but it was enough, because the starter had more than a one-run lead. Nobody out of the pen was dominant. Tanner Bailey gave up three runs over the last 2.2 innings. Usually that won’t get it done, but when you have a 10-5 lead it will.
Auston Bousfield was the hitting star going 3-for-5 with a double, a triple and five RBIs. Ole Miss had 11 hits to 17 for MSU, but 16 of the Bulldogs’ 17 hits were singles.
That was the first game this season in which MSU has allowed double-figure runs. That type of run-production hasn’t been there most games for Ole Miss this season. You can’t count on it being there today, so the Rebels will likely need a much cleaner day from the bullpen behind Wahl. You don’t know how effective Wahl will be since he’s coming out of his routine, but you have to like the Rebels’ chances when he’s pitching.
It was interesting to note that Aaron Greenwood, a central figure in the lost leads over the last two weeks, was not in the relief mix Saturday. He will be available today along with Matt Denny as far as bullpen regulars who weren’t used yesterday. Keep an eye on Hawtin Buchanan and Jacob Waguespack.
Whoever it is, the Rebels will need a cleaner effort from the bullpen, and a repeat performance of yesterday’s explosion of runs wouldn’t hurt.