By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco has no buttons left to push in his quest to pump up the Rebels’ sagging offense as they host Auburn this week in the final regular season series, one that could decide the SEC Western Division winner.
The button Bianco would like to push would bring instant healing to the ailing shoulder of sophomore designated hitter Matt Snyder, his cleanup hitter. With nine home runs and 31 RBIs, Snyder has often produced when available, but he’s missed 21 games this season, including the last six.
Bianco has used regular starters at different spots in the batting order; he’s used different reserves to replace Snyder.
“You try to do different things, but we have to get some better swings off,” Bianco said. “The frustrating thing is, we’re a different team with (Snyder), but we are what we are, and we don’t know when we’re going to get him back. While you’re waiting, you have to do more offensively.”
Hopefully for the Rebels change will come this week. Ole Miss and Arkansas trail Auburn by a game. The Rebels control their own destiny at home but will have Arkansas, which plays at Vanderbilt, on their heels.
Ole Miss (36-17, 16-11 SEC) did very little offensively in losing two of three at struggling Alabama over the weekend.
The losses dropped the Rebels four spots to No. 18 in this week’s release of the Baseball America Top 25.
In three games, Ole Miss had just 19 hits, only five for extra-bases, and totaled just nine runs.
After a five-run out-burst in the first three innings Friday, the Rebels scored just four runs in the remaining 24 innings.
Alabama got complete-game pitching performances from Jimmy Nelson on Saturday and from Nathan Kilcrease, its closer making only his second start, on Sunday.
The lack of offense offset solid starting pitching in both losses. Aaron Barrett carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Saturday. On Sunday, David Goforth had a 3-2 lead when Alabama put up four runs in the seventh.
The Rebels had just given Goforth the lead in the top of the inning.
“The one thing we’ve got to do better, I’ve got to do better, really the whole staff, is having that shut-down inning. When we score, we can’t go back out there and let them score. When we score, we have to go out there, get their guys out, and start swinging again,” Goforth said.
Ole Miss is hitting just .266 in SEC games, last in the league. The Rebels are 2-4 in their last six conference games, averaging just 2.6 runs during that time.
Following Sunday’s 6-3 loss, Bianco said it’s not about statistics, necessarily, but it’s about maintaining a mindset of confidence and each player making his at-bat count.
“They won the game, because they’re guy that’s hitting .229 (Brett Booth) hit a triple, and they’re guy that’s hitting .250 (Andrew Miller) had two strikes and hit a 94-mile-an-hour fastball. He fisted it, but he didn’t strike out. He hit the ball down the right field line and got the run in. You don’t have to be hitting .340, you just have to get your hit at the right time. We’re not getting enough good at-bats, and we’re not getting enough hits.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org