Arkansas-Pine Bluff gave Ole Miss a look at the plate it hasn’t seen this year and will likely not see again in 2019 after the Golden Lions leave town on Wednesday. Most of their pitchers never broke 84 mph on the radar gun. Starter Daniel Walsh hurled multiple pitches in the low 60’s.
Such is the life in the midweek. It can be difficult to maintain focus through a slog of a game. Ole Miss handled its business in a 12-2 win that ended on a Ryan Olenek double in the eighth inning, kicking a 10-run rule into effect agreed upon by both teams.
“I think it is just being crafty,” Olenek said. “It is a little slower. You aren’t used to it. You see all these Big Leaguers hitting 98 like they see it every day, because they do see it every day. We are used to seeing 90-92 every day and then you see these guys, it is a big adjustment. It is really like sitting off-speed. They can’t beat you. Good hitters get jammed, so stay inside the ball and see what happens.”
Olenek had the most success off the unconventional pitching. The senior went 4-for-5 with 5 RBIs. He had over half of the team’s seven hits. Ole Miss scored eight runs on a single hit, which included a four-run first inning without a hit. It was difficult for the Rebels to acclimate themselves to something so foreign, but some of it was also no fault of their own. Pine Bluff walked six hitters and hit five.
“It just wasn’t a real good night for us offensively,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “We didn’t do a good job making adjustments. Ryan seemed like the only guy in the lineup that made an adjustment, stayed back, let a ball get deep and get some good swings off. He gets four hits and the one ball he doesn’t get a hit on might have been the hardest hit ball, the one up the middle.”
Jordan Fowler had his best start of the season, tossing seven innings of four-hit ball, yielding one run with six strikeouts and two walks. The side effects of the Golden Lions’ behavior on the mound didn’t spare Fowler. It is no easy task to sit through 25-30 minute intermissions between going back out the mound between frames. The lefty handled it maturely and pieced together his longest start of the season.
“It starts to get cool when the sun goes down and you have a couple stints there where you sit in the dugout for a while,” Bianco said. “Proud of the way he continued to fill up the strike zone with three pitches and made it look easy for a while there.”
Fowler threw 96 pitches and threw all three pitches for strikes, as Bianco alluded to. It was an important night for his confidence, opponent aside, for a guy who has struggled to start this 2019 season.
Bianco tweaked the lineup more than he usually does. Olenek played third base. Tyler Keenan played first base and Anthony Servideo drew a start in center field with Carl Gindl in right. This, in all likelihood, will not be a regular lineup. But being afforded the flexibility to see some different things in the midweek can be helpful as this team wades deeper into conference play.
Ole Miss finishes a two-game midweek set with Pine Bluff on Wednesday. Zack Phillips will take the baseball for the Rebels. Phillips began the year in the Saturday role, but has struggled to find his footing. Bianco announced on Monday that freshman lefty Doug Nikhazy will be inserted into the weekend rotation this weekend at Missouri, slotting Phillips into a midweek start.
First pitch is slated for 3 P.M.
Thomas Dillard left the game in the first inning after taking a knee to the head/neck area sliding into first base. Bianco said Dillard cleared concussion protocol and should be fine.
Photo by Petre Thomas/Ole Miss Athletics