It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around Ole Miss as a dominant offense, but that’s how the Rebels are winning games in the SEC tournament.
I was critical of this group earlier this season for not hitting “good” pitching. If you want to compete for championships for national seeds and the like – which the Rebels are now doing – you have to hit good pitching.
There will be nights when you don’t hit the other guys’ ace. That’s understandable. There are a lot of good pitchers in this league. However, you have to be able to hit the other guys’ No. 2.
That’s what the Rebels did not do against Mississippi State, South Carolina and Alabama.
That began to change in the second half of the season, and it’s really continued here.
We’ve heard during this tournament that opposing pitchers have been lacking command or leaving balls high in the zone. Well, most guys are going to do that for a pitch here and there, probably more often than that.
The key for an offense is to square up, put on a good swing and not miss. Too many times earlier this season Ole Miss was missing such opportunities.
Now the Rebels in need of a lengthy tournament run to strengthen their argument to host and perhaps be a national seed are not missing those pitches.
In three tournament wins the Rebels are hitting .268. That doesn’t sound dynamic, but they’re getting big hits at big times. They’ve done it each game. They’re making opponents pay for mistakes such as in the fifth inning against Vanderbilt when the Commodores failed to end the inning with a double play ball. Everyone was safe to leave the bases loaded, and Colby Bortles delivered a three-run double.
Bortles had two doubles and drove in four runs against the Commodores. There’s a lot of talk and attention on J.B. Woodman, as well there should be, and on Henri Lartigue.
It’s Bortles, though, who is giving this team something extra right now. He’s producing in this tournament more than he often produced in the regular season. Bortles is 5-for-13 with four doubles and eight RBIs.
When a guy like that is added to the mix and guys like Woodman and Lartigue continue to do their thing, this bunch can be really good.
Lartigue was 0-for-2 against Georgia, but is 7-for-10 over the last two games.
It seemed like Georgia and South Carolina couldn’t get Woodman out. Vanderbilt did four times, but in one of his five at-bats he had a solo home run that cleared both fences in right field.
The game got sloppy at the end as Ole Miss relievers were unable to consistently throw strikes. Vanderbilt had few hits along the way, but the game was extended with walks and hit batters.
Mike Bianco didn’t want to use Wyatt Short in this game, but he did. It was Short who finally got the last out after the Commodores had shaved seven runs off a 10-run deficit.
I would not be alarmed by the bullpen’s performance today. It was that kind of strange game that you get sometimes with Vanderbilt making mistakes it doesn’t usually make and looking sloppy in general. Ole Miss had a 10-0 lead, but there was this sensation of wondering how you got there. The intensity level was lacking, and I believe those relievers would have pitched differently under different circumstances.
Speaking of a pitching, the Rebels got an effective outing from James McArthur, something you really haven’t been able to say since McArthur went 4 2-3 innings in a relief appearance against Auburn on April 24.
Maybe this is the confidence-building game that McArthur needs. He will be a welcome addition to the postseason mix if it is.
Also on the pitching, it was interesting to note that Ole Miss used four freshmen – Brady Feigl is a redshirt – before Wyatt Short got the final out.
Pretty big stakes for those young arms as Ole Miss continues to make a national seed case.