Ole Miss drops to 26-10 (9-6) with a Sunday loss against their arch-rival Mississippi State. The Powder Blue uniforms just don’t have any magic anymore. The Rebels are now 4-5 on the season in the jerseys that were once unstoppable. The jerseys aren’t the reason why Ole Miss lost today. Coach Mike Bianco will have to own this loss all by himself.
Drew McDaniel got the start for the Rebels today which marked his first Sunday start of the season. He has pitched well all year from the bullpen and in midweek games, so him taking over for a struggling Derek Diamond in the weekend rotation makes perfect sense. In 5.1 innings today he allowed just 3 hits and earned 2 runs. He had nobody on in the 6th and still looked in control on the mound when he got the hook. His pitch count was up at 91, which is a lot, but sometimes a pitcher is locked in and can go up over 100 (see Doug Nikhazy just 1 day ago for reference).
Pulling McDaniel was a questionable yet understandable call. Where Bianco messed up was tapping Josh Mallitz to take over. Mallitz is a true freshman with a bright future, but he is not ready for the big stages just yet. He proved that last weekend (going 1.1 innings with 1 earned and 1.1 innings with 5 earned) in his 2 outings against Arkansas. In a game where Ole Miss has the lead, a win puts Ole Miss back in the top 5, and literally 0 true bullpen arms have thrown a pitch all weekend, Bianco went with Mallitz? It obviously didn’t work out.
After 3 straight hits off Mallitz, Austin Miller was brought in with runners on. Miller might have been alright if he had come in with no traffic and a 2-run cushion, but the added pressure of the tying run already being in scoring position hurt him. He only managed to record 1 out before being relieved by the closer.
If the idea was to go with Taylor Broadway in the 6th inning, why not make that move, again, with a 2-run lead and nobody on base? Instead, Broadway had to face Mississippi State’s best hitter with the bases loaded in a tie game. As good as Broadway is, sometimes the hitter is better. Tanner Allan cleared the bases, and the Rebels went down by 3. Coach Bianco should expect a gift basket from every Bulldog fan to flood his office tomorrow morning after he completely mismanaged a wide-open bullpen in a winnable rivalry rubber match.
The final line for Mallitz in this one: 0.0 innings, 3 hits, 3 earned runs. Miller finished with 0.1 innings, 2 hits, 2 earned runs. Finally, Broadway earned 0 runs on 4 hits in his 2.1 innings of labor. Bianco completely wasted a great start delivered by Drew McDaniel.
The Rebel offense managed 5 runs despite continuing their unfathomably bad bases loaded trends. No big game would be complete without Ole Miss leaving the bases loaded at least once, but seeing as this game was super important, they decided to leave them loaded twice. Justin Bench left 7 runners on throughout his 1-5 performance. The offensive day seemed to be headed down one of those abysmal paths from the onset. Chatagnier used the 1st inning to fulfill the Ole Miss obligation to ground into a double play and end an early scoring chance.
It is worth mentioning that of the 5 runs Ole Miss did score, 2 of them were gifts. Hayden Dunhurst went 0-3 but he did draw a bases loaded walk to score a run. An error in the 8th inning was the second run scoring gift handed to the Rebels. Hayden Leatherwood, on the other hand, wanted to win this game. He went 2-4 with 2 homeruns and 3 RBI.
ULR will make a trip to Oxford on Tuesday and the Rebels will likely pick up a blowout midweek win. The focus then shifts to the weekend series against LSU. LSU started the season poorly but have been catching a bit of stride lately. If Ole Miss loses a 4th straight series, the polls will hammer them. Losing 2 of 3 to Florida on the road, Arkansas at home, and Mississippi State on the road are all dings to the resume but losing a series to LSU at home would be the final straw. With that being said, Vanderbilt still looms on the back half of the conference schedule and that means Ole Miss can still fall further from the Cloud 9 they opened the season on.
Ole Miss looks lost right now in the biggest at-bats. This is the brand of disappointment that Rebel fans have come to know and love. People on Twitter are calling for Bianco’s job right now. That will never happen though. Ole Miss fans have known forever that there are some things Bianco just can’t do. He can’t get the big wins in the postseason, he can’t beat his rivals, and, most importantly, he can’t get fired.