The Ole Miss baseball team just finished a pivotal week. Rebels are excited about the series win over No. 1 ranked Florida—with good reason—and we’ll get to that in a minute. But first let’s take a quick look at what could turn out to be an equally important game leading up to this weekend’s win over the Gators.
Rebels show enthusiasiam in comeback win over UAPB
On Wednesday the Rebels faced a lesser opponent, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (UAPB), and found themselves with their backs unexpectedly against the wall. Ole Miss was down to its final three outs, behind by two runs. The UAPB pitching was stingy, and the Rebels were on the ropes. But Ole Miss (13-10, 3-3 SEC) found a way to win the game in walk-off fashion by a score of 7 to 6.
The victory over UAPB was just what the team needed. We may ultimately look back later this season and consider it that defining moment where we saw the pieces coming together and the team becoming a tighter, closer-knit unit. Nothing helps a team bond more than winning in this fashion, and the Rebels celebrated the victory as if they won the SEC title. This was precisely the kind of excitement that had been missing thus far, and it was great to see.
Banding together against the Gators
Following a 4-1 victory over the Gators on Friday (click here for a recap of the game), the Rebels set their sights on the Saturday games. Yes, “games” as in more than one, for once again Ole Miss found itself playing a doubleheader because of anticipated inclement weather.
In the first game of the Saturday doubleheader, the Rebels jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Sikes (#FearTheStache) Orvis had already delivered a 3-run bomb (#Goodbye) and an RBI double and that’s when things got a little weird.
After the Gators walked Tate Blackman, they pitched to sophomore Errol Robinson who hit a grounder to the second baseman. Blackman then slid clean and hard into the shortstop. The shortstop began jawing at Blackman and it got a bit heated. Sikes took a step in that direction—and the umpire tossed him.
This is actually a good sign for the Rebels, in my opinion, as some have questioned the team’s bond and its leadership. Perhaps this event answers questions about both and shows us more about the unit than we knew before. This year’s team is coming together before our very eyes. The walk-off win and the Orvis ejection are evidence we are moving in the right direction.
Game 2: Ole Miss 5, Florida 2
In between all the craziness at Swayze Saturday afternoon, fans saw some great things from the Rebels.
Although Brady Bramlett didn’t have his best stuff and never quite got in a good rhythm, the team produced runs for him. It is important to point out the length of time Bramlett spent in the dugout. The first three innings, alone, took 90 minutes to play! That makes it extremely difficult for rhythm pitchers like Bramlett to get comfortable on the mound. Nevertheless, he competed his tail off and held the Gators at bay for six innings.
Following Bramlett, Jacob Waguespack came in and pitched a solid 1.2 innings for the Rebels. Wyatt Short then entered the game for Ole Miss with two outs and the bases loaded in the 8th inning. He threw one pitch and got a groundout to end the inning. Wyatt made short work of Florida (20-5, 3-3 SEC) in the 9th and recorded the save.
Game 3: Rebels 4, Gators 8
Up 2-0 in the series, Ole Miss took the field in Game 3 without Orvis, who was serving a one-game suspension for his ejection in the earlier game. The Rebels tried a new Sunday starter at pitcher in Will Stokes. Florida was able to jump out of the gates early and they never looked back. The Gators plated four runs in the first two innings, adding four more throughout the game as they avoided the sweep. (There is a good reason they were ranked No. 1 in some polls.)
Will Stokes (loss): 2.2 innings 7 hits 5 runs 1 walk 1 strikeout
Drake Robison: 3 innings 2 hits 2 runs 2 walks
Sam Smith: 2.1 innings 3 hits, 1 strikeout
Mitchel Babb: 1 inning 1 walk.
Notes from the Weekend
Pitcher forced into action
Evan Anderson, the current midweek starter, was forced into action due to the Sikes Orvis ejection. Evan entered the game in the sixth inning and played first base for the final four innings. He fared well and got one at-bat. He grounded a 2-1 fastball to the first baseman.
As long as Christian Trent and Brady Bramlett stay healthy, Ole Miss will be in every series with a chance to win at least two of the games. Both pitchers are working late in the game, 6th inning or better, and saving the bullpen.
The Rebels still need to find that Sunday starter who can give them a chance to compete during the final game of the series. I look for Evan Anderson or Sam Smith to get that opportunity in Fayetteville next weekend, or for possibly a combination of Smith, Anderson, and Will Stokes to pitch three innings a piece to keep the Hogs off balance.
Kyle Watson, Will Golsan and Tate Blackman have worked their way into the top five of the Ole Miss lineup. They all three compete well at the plate, and there is a good reason the Rebels are excited about this trio. Watson and Golsan are batting .300, and Blackman is hitting at .227 but moving in the right direction after a rough start.
The pitcher’s best friend
The catchers did a great job this weekend picking off the Gators on their attempts to steal bases. Ole Miss catchers were 4-for-7 on stolen base attempts, meaning .571 of the runners were thrown out. Henry Lartigue led the way going 2-2, while Austin Knight finished 2-5. If we continue to throw runners out at that clip, it will give the pitchers a little more breathing room.
As the season continues, Sikes Orvis has begun catching fire. His batting average is up to .267 with 6 homeruns and 21 RBI’s. It certainly appears the bigger the game, the better he gets. In league play, Sikes is batting .421 with 3 doubles, 2 homeruns and 9 RBI’s.
Cameron Dishon has been in the nine-hole this season and has fit well in that role. He can handle the bat and does his job turning the lineup over. He is batting .294 in SEC play thus far. For the season, he is batting .286 which means regardless of the team or pitching he is facing, he is finding a way to be successful.
Where we’ve been
Rebels’ tough nine-game stretch: In the last two weeks, the Rebels have faced some stiff competition. Let’s take a look at how they fared.
Midweek games at Louisville: 1-1 split
SEC series at LSU: 1-2
Midweek game v UAPB: 1-0
SEC series v Florida: 2-1
Over the course of the last nine games, Ole Miss has faced #7 Louisville, #1 LSU and #1 Florida, finishing 5-4 against some of the top talent in the country. It has been a good couple of weeks for the Rebels, and this young team is growing up quickly.
Where we’re headed
Ole Miss then hits the road for Fayetteville for a three-game tilt with Arkansas that begins Thursday.