For the second straight weekend, the Ole Miss baseball team hit the road for Southeastern Conference play, paying a visit to SEC East opponent and No. 7-ranked Florida. Going into the series, the Rebels had won four of their last five, including taking last weekend’s series at Arkansas. Unfortunately, McKethan Stadium was not kind to the red and blue, as Ole Miss was swept 3-0 by the Gators.
Friday: Ole Miss 2, Florida 11
Florida ace Alex Faedo shut out the Rebels in six innings pitched, allowing three hits and three walks. Faedo was as good as advertised, pitching out of a jam in the fourth inning when Ole Miss had Tate Blackman on third and Will Golsan on first with one out. But the Rebels were unable to score after consecutive strikeouts.
Afterwards, Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said the fourth inning was the Rebels’ “…shot to scratch a run, maybe two, if you can punch a base hit through.”
Bianco complimented Faedo on his pitching, saying: “That’s what the great ones do, when they need to make pitch they’re able to make a pitch and get off the field.”
The home half of the fourth gave the Gators all the runs they would need and featured a 15-pitch walk by Florida third baseman Christian Hicks and a grand slam by left fielder Ryan Larson. As Bianco later lamented, the Rebels were “…a pitch away from walking off the field [in the 4th inning] 0-0.”
Ole Miss right fielder D.J. Miller hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to put runs on the board for the Rebels and avoid the shutout. Faedo picked up the win and improved to 7-1, while reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week James McArthur took the loss and dropped to 3-4 on the season.
Saturday: Ole Miss 4, Florida 7
Ole Miss plated the first four runs of the game, including two in the first, one in the second, and one in the fourth; however, the Gators fought back and scored the last seven runs of the game to take the series by a final score of 7-4.
In the first inning, Tim Rowe doubled in Colby Bortles and Tate Blackman, who had walked and singled, respectively. Grae Kessinger recorded an RBI in the second with a sacrifice fly that scored Bryan Seamster, and the talented freshman followed that up with another RBI in the fourth, a double that again scored Seamster.
Florida scored three in the fifth to cut the lead to one, and then tied it in the seventh with a lone run. In the eighth inning, the Gators took the lead and added insurance when they scored three additional runs.
Rebel Skipper Mike Bianco described the game as a “heartbreaker,” saying: “You can see the disappointment on their [Rebel players] faces.”
Closer Dallas Woolfolk took the loss for the Rebels, moving him to 3-2 on the season.
Sunday: Ole Miss 4, Florida 6
On Sunday, the Rebels looked to avoid the sweep, but the Florida pitching staff was able to keep the Ole Miss bats at bay for the third day in row. The Gators finished the Rebels off by a final score of 6-4.
Florida got on the board first in the third inning and never relinquished the lead.
The top four in the Ole Miss line-up–Blackman, Golsan, Bortles, and Fortes–had all eight of the Rebels’ hits. Tate Blackman notched a solo home run in the sixth inning and a double in the eighth. Nick Fortes hit an RBI double in the fourth, and Colby Bortles hammered a triple in the eighth. Rebel runs were scored in the fourth, sixth, and eighth innings.
Starter David Parkinson pitched 3 ⅓ innings for Ole Miss and allowed three runs. He was dealt the loss, bringing his record to 5-3 on the season.
Head coach Mike Bianco said his team was “…just not able to get over the hump and win that close one,” but added: “That’s the great thing about this league; you get opportunities.”
After the weekend, Ole Miss fell to 11-13 in the SEC, 29-20 overall. The Rebels look to bounce back this coming weekend in Oxford.
Ole Miss takes a break from midweek action to prepare for final exams for the Spring Semester. This weekend features the last homestand of the season in the form of a visit from the Aggies of Texas A&M.
Starting times for the weekend are as follows: 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday at 6:00 p.m., and Sunday at 12 noon. It will be the last regular season home game for two Ole Miss seniors, third baseman Colby Bortles and pitcher Sean Johnson.
(Feature image credit: Tim Casey, UF Athletics)