By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
For Ole Miss, Tuesday night’s 5-1 loss to Mississippi State was a scene that’s played out already this season.
An offense that produced only six hits – all singles – and pitching that was good in spots but tainted by free passes.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco told us the Rebels had more in the tank after a narrow 7-6 11-inning loss to No. 2 Vanderbilt on Sunday, but the SEC season reaches its midway point this weekend, and the Rebels, at 4-8 in the SEC, need to crank it up.
Tuesday’s loss, the Rebels’ sixth straight and eighth in 10 games, was not a good start.
Ole Miss pitchers added 10 walks to their total of 112, a figure that ranked them ninth in the SEC when play began.
Offensively, six hits were simply not enough if you’re not going to supplement that effort by getting on base in other ways. Ole Miss did not.
Last week, Ole Miss players spoke of the need to be more focused, to compete harder.
Following the Governor’s Cup game the theme for Bianco was greater toughness in all phases.
A competitive nature and toughness are indeed characteristics found on winning teams, but so is talent, and that looks to be where this team is falling short right now.
The question of how to replace Alex Yarbrough, Matt Snyder and Zach Kirksey, three of last season’s top offensive players, dominated the preseason landscape.
Finding similar production became dicey when three signees opted for pro baseball rather than college and a fourth who figured to challenge for the job at second base stayed away for personal reasons.
As a result only one newcomer, catcher Stuart Turner, has made a measurable impact on the offense.
Returning players who needed to make a jump this year have not. Tanner Mathis and Will Allen have struggled. Sophomores Auston Bousfield and Will Jamison are hitting about what they did as freshmen.
Pitching has been really good at times, but the walks have been perplexing. Injuries have hurt depth, and that’s why it was important for Bianco to get Chris Ellis and Hawtin Buchanan in the game Tuesday, and even freshman Jacob Waguespack, who made his college debut, thus burning a redshirt.
This isn’t about the future. It’s about now, and there aren’t many unused options on the roster. Waguespack may be one who can help.
Pitching is going to be where this team has the best chance to turn things around.
If it can do that maybe a core within the offense can get hot for a period of time and show the grit and spunk Bianco is trying to find.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.