The Rebels, who were 2-1 in league play after a successful first weekend at Arkansas a month ago, have gone 2-7 since then against Texas A&M, Florida, and Vanderbilt.
Scoring runs has been the most obvious downfall for Ole Miss lately. Since defeating Florida 4-3 in 11 innings two weeks ago tonight, the Rebels have played six games and scored more than one run one time. That was a 7-6 loss to Vanderbilt last Sunday in 11 innings.
There were two shutouts at the hands of the Gators two weekends ago that followed the Friday night game, and two losses to Vanderbilt with only one run scored. Then Tuesday night of this week, Mississippi State beat Ole Miss 5-1 in Pearl, a game that was considered non-conference.
There’s been a bit of quirkiness in the Rebels’ schedule lately, too. The week after the series win at Arkansas, Ole Miss didn’t have a scheduled non-conference game that midweek, which was highly unusual for that time of season. When the Aggies came to town, Oxford got rain on Saturday and Sunday’s bill featured two seven-inning games, both won by the visiting Texans.
Then last week the only midweek game, at date with Memphis at AutoZone Park, was rained out. So it was another stretch with no midweek games.
Beginning tonight with Alabama, the Rebels have five games in five days, including this series, then the makeup game at Memphis Monday night and a game against Southern Mississippi in Pearl Tuesday night.
Ole Miss (23-10, 4-8) is a team that needs to play games now, because it is a team that needs to win games now. Rebel head coach Mike Bianco certainly believes that.
“We need all the games we can play and we need to play well,” he said.
But he and his team aren’t approaching it as a desperation situation. The mood immediately after the loss to MSU in Pearl Tuesday night almost appeared that way. The time is now was the message three nights ago, and still is.
But now the approach has to be refocus and get back to playing as they had when they started the season and rolled out to an impressive 21-2 record. But since then they’ve gone 2-8 with a current losing streak at six.
They have to stay true to the process, according to Bianco.
“But you have one game, one inning, the first inning, the first pitch, you have to break it down like that,” Bianco said. “And that’s not just coach’s talk. The reason you talk about the process and all that is for times like this. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We’ve got to worry about winning some pitches and winning some innings Friday night.”
The Rebels face an Alabama team that might be considered one of the surprises of the season. The Crimson Tide is 22-13 overall but an even more impressive 8-4 in league play.
Alabama posted a pair of mid-week home wins over Alcorn State, 3-2 and 7-3, on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. In its last SEC series, Alabama lost two of three games to No. 9 Arkansas, after closing the series with a 5-0 win on Saturday. Alabama is currently tied for second place in the SEC Western Division with Arkansas.
The Crimson Tide is ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball News and is receiving votes in the USA Today Sports Coaches and NCBWA polls.
Ole Miss is currently ranked as high as No. 18 in the coaches’ poll and No. 21 in three other polls.
Center fielder Auston Bousfield said the Rebels have to lift their level of play and also their toughness.
“We’ve just got to get tougher,” said Bousfield, echoing the sentiments of his head coach. “Collectively there are a lot of things we can do to play better. We’ve got to win more pitches. We’ve got to do things within the game. We’ll figure them out.”
Bousfield said getting back to doing the things they did early in the season and playing like that are the keys.
“It’s tough but we’ve got to continue to believe we’re as good as we were earlier this season,” Bousfield said. “It’s hard when you’re not winning. We’ve just got to remember we were good at the beginning of the year and we’re that same team.”
“You have to keep grinding it out,” Bianco said. “The good news for us is that we’ve had success and a lot of success. We’re 2-8 the last ten games. We’ve had a bad stretch here. It’s time to make it stop. You can’t feel sorry for yourselves. You have to continue to fight. You have to remain positive and try to do things that will help us win.”
Probable Starting Pitchers
UA-Charley Sullivan (Sr., RHP) 3-2, 2.52 ERA
OM-Bobby Wahl (Jr., RHP) 6-0, 1.57 ERA
UA-Justin Kamplain (Soph., LHP) 0-0, 4.34 ERA
OM-Mike Mayers (Jr., RHP) 2-4, 3.20 ERA
UA-Spencer Turnbull (Soph., RHP) 4-1, 2.22 ERA
OM-Sam Smith (Soph., RHP) 2-0, 4.40 ERA