Ole Miss continues their hot streak with 3 straight wins this week and 1 more game against Alabama scheduled for tomorrow. A midweek matchup with Central Arkansas proved to be more competitive than the Rebels would have wanted, but they pulled through. Game 1 against Alabama (which was moved from Thursday to Friday because of weather) felt like a lost opportunity, but some late inning magic secured the victory. Game 2 of the doubleheader began roughly 1 hour after the final out was recorded in the afternoon contest, and the Rebels grinded out their fifth straight SEC win.
UCA got started with a run in the 1st inning of the midweek game. Josh Mallitz was given the start, despite multiple relief appearances in the prior week, and he delivered the win. He has proven to be a huge young asset this season and somebody the Rebels will lean on in years to come.
After finishing 3 innings, Braden Forsythe took over and kept the Bears off the scoreboard in the 4th and 5th. Jackson Kimbrell allowed a runner to score in the 6th before Murrell, Miller, and Broadway came in to retire the final 10 batters of the game. Broadway picked up his fourth save of the season in this one.
The top 5 hitters in the Ole Miss lineup went a combined 8-18 in the game while the bottom of the order was held hitless. Justin Bench, who was slotted as the leadoff man, stood above his peers with a 3-3 game and 2 runs scored.
2 errors by Gonzalez helped the Bears get on the board, but everybody is allowed a bad day on occasion. The Rebels are one of the cleaner defensive teams in the country even with a true freshman starting at Shortstop. Although the score was not lopsided in this one, the game never felt like it was in doubt.
Gunnar Hoglund got an extra day of rest as the Thursday game had to be moved to a doubleheader on Friday. With 2 full 9-inning games in the same day, starting pitching needed to be efficient and limit the number of arms used out of the bullpen. Trying to be too cute with the load management of the bullpen was the downfall for Alabama in this one.
The Gun Show struck out 10 Crimson Tiders over 6 innings in one of his weaker outings. Hoglund is so good, that a 10-strikeout performance and a quality start is considered his weaker stuff. He made a couple of mistakes and got taken deep for 3 different solo homeruns. Hoglund was on the hook for the loss until the bats came alive in the 9th.
The heavy hitting trio of Gonzalez, Graham, and Elko were a combined 0-12 through 8 innings, but the whole lineup came to life in the 9th. TJ McCants was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Peyton Chatagnier promptly tied the game up with a 2-run shot. He had a fantastic day, going 4-5 with that all important 9th inning homerun. Getting on base became contagious as the Rebels scored 8 runs on 6 hits in the inning. Alabama tried their hardest not to have to use their Closer in game 1, but that eventually cost them the game and wasted a fantastic start turned in by Ras.
Tyler Myers gets the win despite running into some trouble in his third frame. With 1 out in the 9th, and the lead cut in half, Bianco went to his Closer, Broadway, to lock it down and pick up a save. Game 1 had all the drama and excitement that you could expect from the 2 teams tied atop the NCAA leaderboard for walk-off wins.
Game 2 of the doubleheader was a pitchers’ duel. Doug Nikhazy came back into the rotation after a pectoral injury kept him on the bench for a short while. He managed 7 Ks in a short, 5 inning outing. He was likely kept on a short leash for his pectoral muscle’s sake. Drew McDaniel, who had been leaned on heavily in Doug Nikhazy’s absence, powered through 3 scoreless innings of his own before Taylor Broadway came in and shut the door once again.
The Rebel pitchers did not allow a single run in Game 2 against Alabama. Doug Day once again proved to be Dub Day and Broadway’s sixth save of the season has him in the conversation with the elite Closers in college ball.
Offense was hard to come by in this game for both sides. Ole Miss scored just 2 runs. 1 run came off a solo homer hit by TJ McCants in the 5th, and the other (McCants again) scored on an 8th inning Kevin Graham single. Overall, McCants had a solid day for the Rebels. When you have a team this deep and talented, it is not a shock to see the 9-hole hitting freshman steal the show.
Ole Miss will have 1 more game against the Crimson Tide on Saturday. Derek Diamond will hope to bring the lights out stuff that the rest of the staff provided today. If he happens to struggle, however, the bullpen was so efficient today that he will have plenty of arms ready to bail him out of trouble. Broadway recorded 2 saves and totaled less than 30 pitches today, but Myers and McDaniel will probably be unavailable for tomorrow’s game.
Hopefully, the Rebels can muster up some more run support than they did today. Apart from the mismanaged 9th inning of Game 1, the Rebels only scored 3 runs total against Alabama arms in 2 games. The Rebels sit at 5-0 in the SEC and would love a sweep to keep them alone atop the West.