The Rebels needed at least 2 wins this weekend, maybe 3, but they only got 1. Goodbye Oxford Regional hopes. The dream was actually revitalized after last weekend’s sweep covered up the 4 straight weekend series losing streak. After losing 2 of 3 against a much lesser Texas A&M team, however, the sweep over South Carolina seems like a fluke.
Gunnar struggled in his Game 1 start. 3 runs earned in just 0.2 innings is not what everybody expects from a top 10 draft prospect. His struggles were amplified by an injury to his elbow. At the time of the game, it was unclear how badly he hurt his arm, but it has now been revealed that he will have to undergo Tommy John Surgery to repair a torn UCL. This worked for Derek Diamond, the starting pitcher turned bullpen long relief option. He went 4 innings. He allowed 5 runs, but none of them earned. Not a solid outing from the Doc, but the Rebel bats kept them in the game. Miller bridged the gap with 2.2 scoreless innings before the ball was turned over to the freshman phenom, Jack Dougherty.
Dougherty pitched out of the 8th inning and into the 9th where he gave up a walk off bomb to Frizzell. Frizzell went yard twice in this game to ensure the win for the Aggies. Leaving Dougherty in the game is not one of those usual Bianco mistakes. The guy was pitching well until one wrong pitch found its way over the wall for the Texas A&M win. If you were to be nitpicky, technically the book of baseball says to go for the win on the road and the tie at home (home teams statistically do better in extra innings than road teams), and that is what Bianco did.
Game 1 was a tough loss, but the Rebels had 2 more games to decide their regional fate. The offense was very good at getting guys on but could not bring enough runs home (shocker). They left 10 men on base, but they did not leave the bases loaded which will count as a big W for the Rebels. Hayden Leatherwood and Cael Baker hit homeruns from the bottom of the lineup, but Ole Miss just did not stack hits the way they needed to if they wanted the win.
Ole Miss did manage to win Game 2. 6.2 innings from Doug Nikhazy with 4 earned runs was enough to give him the win. Wes Burton gave 2 innings of solid mid-relief before Tyler Myers was called on to get the final out in a non-save situation.
The story in this game wasn’t the 12 runs or the 12 hits. It wasn’t even the top to bottom efficiency of the offense. What made this game special was the 3-run homerun that Tim Elko hit. It was his first hit since tearing his ACL just a couple of weeks ago. Elko has the power to make every Rebel fan’s heartbeat faster. He is a fan favorite and he stole the show from Doug (the other big time fan favorite).
Drew McDaniel continued his streak of turning out good outings on Sunday. He earned 2 runs in his 4.2 innings of work and left the game in line for the win. After Kimbrell and Dougherty did their jobs to keep the Rebels in the lead, Taylor Broadway was called on for the long save.
Broadway walked 2 batters to load the bases before red hot Will Frizzell came to the plate. An 0-2 fastball right down the middle was slammed by Frizzell’s bat and his Grand Slam was enough to elevate the Aggies.
The offense was good, not great. 5 runs on 8 hits was almost enough. Bianco completely mismanaged an 8th inning scoring chance, however, and the Rebs were not able to tie this one. Bianco took out a 3-3 Leatherwood with runners on in favor of Ben Van Cleve. Why in the world would you ever take out a guy who is 3-3 you might ask? So that you can lay down a SAC Bunt of course. What a waste of on out. Then with Elko at the plate, aTm opted to intentionally walk the slugger instead of making him a Will Frizzell type hero. Eventually, the inning came to a close with a Calvin Harris double play. The Rebels left the bases loaded (because that is what they are best at).
Ole Miss will not get to host a regional this year. The Rebs are just all out of excuses. This weekend was their last hope to prove to the committee that they belong in the conversation. The NCAA is actually a money-making machine rather than a governing body representing the best interests of student-athletes though, so maybe Ole Miss will still find its way onto the 20 team short list for host sites. Unfortunately, the past 6 weeks have proven that they do not even deserve that.
Gunnar is shut down, Elko is hobbling around the bases, Bianco is refusing to win games, and this is all normal. Maybe some of the newer and younger Rebel fans are disappointed in the outcome this season, but well-seasoned Ole Miss homers are used to this. A team with so much promise and talent will fall short of the CWS and hosting privileges, but Bianco will somehow do just enough in the next few weeks to keep his job and put the Rebs in great position in 2022 to break our hearts again.
Today is another chance to beat up on Little Rock before Vandy comes to town for the weekend. The Rebels still have 2 weekends left before the SEC Tournament and then the NCAA Tournament. For the sake of the students that dedicated their college experience to playing for Ole Miss, I still wish all the best and all the most success. There is still time to make this season special, but the odds are not in the DiamondRebs’ favor.