Weekend Review

Notes and thoughts from an important series win over Ole Miss against Georgia …

Just box score browsing here. You are what your numbers say you are, but sometimes there’s great perspective that never makes it into the box scores.

I do know this: Ole Miss needed to win the series and kept itself in strong contention to gain a regional host spot by taking two of three at Georgia.

Georgia is just 8-16 in SEC play, but these were good resume-building wins for Ole Miss. The Bulldogs went into the weekend with a 29 RPI and ranked No. 1 in strength of schedule.

I’ve been critical of the Rebels for not hitting good pitching this season. That’s changed in the last two SEC weekends.

They’ve hit good pitching against LSU and Georgia. The Rebels hit .300 against the Tigers at Swayze Field.

They hit just .230 at Georgia but got the coveted timely hits and got long ball hits.

J.B. Woodman had another two-home run game in Saturday’s 7-3 win to bring his total to 10 home runs on the season.

Errol Robinson double, tripled and had three hits overall in Game 1.

Robinson is riding a 14-game hit streak. Good to see that for a good guy who struggled offensively at the beginning of the season.

Georgia’s ERA of 4.69 is next to last in the league, but their Friday starter, Robert Tyler, is a top 30 pro prospect, and Ole Miss chased him with six runs, all earned, on five hits in four innings Friday.

The problem is while the hitting has been improved the starting pitching has taken a backward step.

Brady Bramlett had a sub-2.50 ERA going into the LSU series but has now been pushed around in his last two starts. He gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits and two walks in 3 1-3 innings against LSU.

He gave up four runs, all earned, on eight hits in four innings against Georgia.

The Rebels, because they’ve hit better the last two series, managed to win both of Bramlett’s last two starts.

The bullpen was strong again in Athens, but when you have to go it so early in games it takes a toll by the time Game 3 rolls around.

The Rebels needed that bullpen today, because freshman James McArthur was again average in his second SEC start, not getting out of the fourth inning.

Against LSU he was able to survive the run barrage. Against Georgia he was not. McArthur threw three scoreless to start the game, but Georgia put up five runs on him in the fourth.

McArthur is still the best choice for that third spot.

The number of quality young arms on this staff has allowed Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco to re-make things along the way. Two-thirds of the SEC rotation is new now.

It will be interesting to see this group next season.

For now, there’s a lot on the table with six regular season SEC games left.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the importance of this team reaching 14 conference wins from an NCAA tournament perspective. Now it’s done that with four wins in back-to-back weekends.

Any time you win the first two games in a series you feel like you’ve left something on the table when you don’t win the third one.

By not sweeping Georgia the Rebels find themselves in a three-way tie for fifth place with Vanderbilt and LSU in the SEC’s overall standings.

The SEC doesn’t get five host sites every year, but the numbers will justify a fifth host site if these three teams keep winning. All three have solid RPI numbers with Ole Miss at 6, Vanderbilt 9 and LSU 19.

Seventeen conference wins – a figure the Rebels will reach if they sweep Kentucky this week – would be a strong host statement. Eighteen wins – which would mean you’d won at least one game at RPI No. 5 and West leader Texas A&M – would surely lock up a host site.

First thing’s first with Kentucky. The Rebels need to fix their starting pitching and need to hit good pitching again.

Kentucky’s collective ERA is far better than Georgia’s, and unlike Georgia, the Wildcats still have a lot to play for.

They will arrive in Oxford at 29-19 overall, 13-11 in league play, fourth in the East.

There has been discussion of late on Mississippi’s new religious liberty law and how that might affect the state’s SEC schools in trying to host a regional.

While the NCAA long ago came out against state flags with Confederate symbols the baseball regionals in Mississippi were not affected because the NCAA took a different stance on “competitive” regionals. That is to say that because teams earn this host status through their play in the regular season Mississippi schools have been allowed to host.

If Southaven or Biloxi were bidding to host NCAA basketball second- and third-round games, that would not be allowed.

The NCAA’s new stance brings into question the competitive regionals.

However, the language in the NCAA’s news release leaves open the door for Mississippi schools to host. It does not say they cannot host because of House Bill 1523.

That language calls on schools bidding to host to “demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.”

There are enough gray edges there for creative athletics department staffers to meet that requirement in the bidding process.

Hopefully for Ole Miss regional status is still an issue in the next couple of weeks.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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  • Killer_Beeze

    Yesterday’s lost to Georgia was THE WORSE game they’ve played all season IMHO. Bianco just quite hasn’t figured out WHEN to take a pitcher out of the game when he’s throwing pitches in the dirt and “loading up” the bases. McAthur lost that game BIG TIME for the Rebels. It’s not the first time Bianco has stubburnly kept a pitcher in the game toooo long. It really p!sses me off when he does it. 😠

    • Parrish Alford

      I think McArthur will develop. There was blame to go around yesterday. Offense didn’t give them a chance. Bullpen didn’t keep deficit manageable.

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