Deep bullpen is key for No. 6 Ole Miss in series against No. 10 South Carolina
OXFORD – An upcoming series against another Southeastern Conference opponent excites the entire Ole Miss team, and part of the reason for the enthusiasm is the steady play from any pitcher who comes out of the bullpen for the Rebels.
And that puts a smile on head coach Mike Bianco’s face.
“That’s one of the keys, I think, to our success,” Bianco said following the sixth-ranked Rebels’ 8-2 victory over Tennessee-Martin on Tuesday. “And certainly when you get to SEC play, there’s 27 outs and one of the things we told the team was ‘A lot of times, not much is said. A lot is talked about the starter and the guy that finishes the game. But all of the 27 outs mean the same.’
Bianco was correct about the pitching providing a boost for the Rebels (20-2, 2-1 SEC) this season–and that spark is coming from a lot of talented freshmen.
All new faces to this season’s Ole Miss squad showcased their skills and poise against the Skyhawks Tuesday at Swayze. RHP James McArthur picked up his third win of the season with a seven-strikeout effort in five innings, giving up only four hits.
Green had a solid outing as well, striking out four at bat in 2.1 innings. In the next-to-last inning, Woolfolk recorded a strikeout before being replaced by Andrew Lowe.
Gearing up for the Gamecocks
The game against Tennessee-Martin was similar to last week’s two-game series against UAB, where the Rebels used the two wins against the Blazers as a tune-up for their road series against Tennessee, resulting in a 2-1 series win for Ole Miss.
Playing another mid-week game before facing another tough SEC opponent – this week, No. 10 South Carolina (20-2, 3-0 SEC) – has only helped the Rebels prepare for what-could-be a competitive weekend. And senior outfielder Cameron Dishon, who’s tied with J.B. Woodman on the team in home runs (4), sees confidence in each pitcher who comes out of the bullpen:
Quality pitching from young Rebels
Bianco’s plan before the season started was to give each young pitcher an opportunity on the mound, and the game against the Skyhawks was indicative of how much trust he has in guys who are still getting their feet wet in Division 1 baseball.
McArthur is a perfect example of that trust—especially after he struggled somewhat in the top of the first and gave up two quick runs. But Bianco wasn’t upset about McArthur’s early adversity because he realizes it was just another step in the maturity of the New Braunfels, Texas native.
Bianco was asked about McArthur’s steady play after the first inning. “He’s growing each weekend and getting better and better and he’s going to be so good. But, you know, it was a tough first inning,” the Rebels’ coach explained.
“I think he was trying to feel his way through it,” he continued. “After getting down 2-0, he hangs in there and really competes. He struggles for another inning or two, then looks like he kind of finds it a little bit. We really needed that.”
Blackman looks forward to hosting the Gamecocks
“It’s going to be a great feeling,” said Tate Blackman, who was one of three Rebels to hit a homerun against Tennessee-Martin. “We didn’t play South Carolina last year, so I guess I’m new to South Carolina, but they are swinging it well. They’ve got some good arms. It definitely will be a fun game and good experience.”
Ole Miss vs. South Carolina game times, TV coverage
Ole Miss hosts the 10th-ranked Gamecocks on Thursday (6:30 p.m. CT, SEC Network+), followed by Friday’s 6:30 p.m. (CT) game (SEC Network+) and Saturday’s 2:00 p.m. (SEC Network) matchup.
(Feature image credit: Petre/Thomas, Ole Miss Athletics)