By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Before the baseball season began Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said he wanted to see more toughness from the Rebels.
Adversity has come in waves over the past week, and the Rebels are 2-for-3.
They lost a late lead and could not rally against Georgia State last Sunday, suffering their first loss 6-4.
Then on Tuesday and Wednesday they overcame late deficits to win in the ninth inning against Louisiana-Monroe.
Newcomers have figured prominently into both the success and the failure.
Ole Miss (8-1) is at home this weekend for three games against Central Florida (6-2). The Knights are batting .272 but pitching with a 3.91.
Game times are 6:30 tonight, 1:30 Saturday and noon on Sunday.
Right-hander Chris Ellis (2-0) will start for Ole Miss tonight. He’s opened the season with 15-straight scoreless innings.
The late wins against ULM are evidence of toughness, Bianco says.
“We blew a 2-0 lead on Tuesday, but we were able to hang in there and put together some good at-bats to win the game,” Bianco said. “That’s exactly what I was talking about. You have to be abel to handle the adversity, the bad things that happen in this game.”
As a coach you also have to have an idea who you can count on in those situations.
Calling on players unaccustomed to the college game at all, much less critical situations, can yield difficult results.
Such was the case Wednesday when freshman reliever Evan Anderson gave up three runs on two hits, a walk and an error as ULM took the lead in the seventh.
Freshman third baseman Bradley Bell made his first start and went 2-for-3 with a double and scored the game-winning run on Will Allen’s walk-off single. Bell also played solid in the field.
After Anderson’s appearance, the Rebels got 2.1 scoreless innings from freshman Cheyne Bickel who closed the game as the winner.
Bickel had less luck against Georgia State when the two-run home run he allowed in the seventh lost the lead.
Bianco right now would not have put Anderson in that situation on an SEC weekend, he said.
“The truth of the matter is, you’ve got to find out. It doesn’t mean the (mid-week) games don’t matter and that you’re not trying to win,” Bianco said.
No. 18 Mississippi State will host its annual Diamond Classic this weekend welcoming both Michigan State and Eastern Illinois to campus for a round robin tournament at Dudy Noble Field.
Each team will play the others twice over the weekend starting today at 2:30 p.m. between the Spartans (4-2) and Panthers (1-7). The Diamond Dogs (6-4) will play Michigan State in the nightcap tonight at 6:30 p.m.
Tonight’s MSU pitching matchup will feature junior right-hander Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 4.05 ERA) of Wheeler opposed by Spartan junior righty Mick VanVossen (2-0, 3.27 ERA)
Mississippi State will play a doubleheader on Saturday starting with Eastern Illinois at 11 a.m. and the Spartans at 2:30 p.m. Michigan State and the Panthers will meet again Sunday at 11 a.m. before the Bulldogs conclude things with Eastern Illinois at 3 p.m.