The midweek matchup against UNA was moved to Monday, April 5, but the weekend series in Gainesville remained on the schedule. The Rebels lost 2 out of 3 games against the preseason #1 ranked team in the country and dropped down into a tie with the Razorbacks for first place in the SEC West. Despite losing the series, it was still a good weekend for the Rebs who will likely remain in the top 8 in this week’s polls. Next weekend will be the real test of strength for Ole Miss as they host the current #1 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks with a chance to reclaim first place.
Thursday’s game broke up the incredible 6 game conference winning streak the Rebels started the season with. A 4-1 loss to the Gators was Gunnar Hoglund’s first loss of the season. Despite the loss, he pitched well. He allowed 2 runs, only 1 earned, in 6 innings of labor. Surprisingly enough, he only struck out 5 batters in this one which is uncharacteristic of the man who had been leading the nation in Ks for weeks.
Tyler Myers lost his feel in the 8th while trying to expand on a great 7th inning and the Gators added 2 insurance runs. Mallitz probably would have been left in for the 9th inning if the Ole Miss bats could come alive in the top of the 9th, but the lone run in the 3rd on a Chatagnier sac fly was all the Ole Miss offense could manage in this one.
The Ole Miss bats could only gather 4 hits in the game while striking out 10 times against a non-traditional starter. The lack of free passes kept the Gator arms from any high stress situations and allowed them to only use 2 pitchers in the contest. A disappointing Thursday night seemed to hint at a potential bounce back sweep for Florida, but Ole Miss dashed those hopes in game 2.
Ole Miss jumped out early on Friday with a run in the 1st inning and never trailed in the contest. Doug Nikhazy was on fire, throwing 6 innings and allowing just a single unearned run to cross the plate. Despite his outing, Drew McDaniel did get credit for the win with his work in the 7th inning. He allowed a run to tie the game, but Ole Miss struck back with 2 more in the next half inning off a Jacob Gonzalez 2-run blast.
Broadway was brought in for the 8th inning to ensure the Rebels didn’t let this one slip away. He gets credit for a 6 out save, but his heroics weren’t necessary after the Rebs jumped on Jack Leftwich again in the 9th inning and tacked on 4 more runs. Ole Miss took game 2 with a score of 8-2 and put the pressure back on the home team.
Hayden Dunhurst was the only starter to not jump on the hit parade which totaled 11 knocks in game 2. True Freshman Jacob Gonzalez stole the show going 3-5 with 4 RBI. Chatagnier’s 2 RBI single with the bases loaded in the 9th helps soften the blow of his rough day, but 4 strikeouts from your leadoff hitter is not normally a winning formula. Overall, the Rebels were efficient with runners on and evened up the series.
Game 3 came on Saturday and was competitive all the way up until the finish. Florida managed to push across a run in 3 of the first 4 frames, but Ole Miss struck back with 2 runs in the top of the 5th inning. With bases loaded and nobody out, Chatagnier hit into an unfortunate double play, but at least fellow middle infielder, Jacob Gonzalez, came through with an RBI in the next at bat to keep the Rebels from blowing the scoring chance entirely.
After a 2-run homerun off Diamond in the bottom of the 5th gave 2 runs back, it was apparent that the Doc didn’t have his best stuff. Drew McDaniel came in to relieve him and allowed another run to score in the inning before the Rebel bats could go back to work.
Ole Miss inched closer in the top of the 6th thanks to a throwing error by the Florida shortstop, and then added 2 runs in the 7th on a Hayden Dunhurst triple. No more scoring for either team, however, as the back end arms of the bullpens put up 0s. Diamond was pegged with a loss and now sits at 3-3 on the season despite getting the privilege of pitching in the Powder Blues every week.
Jackson Kimbrell and Austin Miller did their usual great work from the pen and didn’t allow any runs to score late in the game, but the Ole Miss offense just didn’t have enough to catch all the way back up. Chatagnier went 0-5 with that crushing double play ball in the 5th and Gonzalez went an almost equally abysmal 1-5. Kevin Graham and Tim Elko went a combined 6-9 in the contest, but they didn’t manage any RBI because the guys ahead of them couldn’t get on.
The Rebels amassed 11 hits in total, but they were a little too spaced out to generate a rally. Ole Miss left 10 runners on base in this one. If just 1 of those runners could have come around to score, we might have been headed to extras, but Ole Miss dropped game 3 to Florida by a score of 6-5.
Thanks to the rescheduling of the North Alabama game, the Rebels have 2 midweek matchups to look forward to this week. That might hurt them this upcoming weekend by thinning out the bullpen before Arkansas comes to town. The Rebels are in a tie for first place and have all of their goals still very much in reach, but this Florida series was certainly a bit of a setback. The DiamondRebs need to regroup and get set for their 6 game home stand at Swayze Field and the rest of the SEC gauntlet. Surviving weekends against Arkansas, MissStake, and LSU is no easy task, but it will show the Rebel faithful exactly where this team stands in the conference and national pictures.