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Ole Miss, Mississippi State begin SEC play on wrong end of the broom

Ole Miss/MSU baseball
Photos courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics and Mississippi State Athletics

It was a rough start for both Ole Miss and Mississippi State’s baseball teams as both squads exited the opening weekend of conference play winless.

Ole Miss (14-6, 0-3 SEC) lost on the road at Vanderbilt (16-5, 3-0 SEC) 12-2 Thursday night, 8-0 Friday, and 7-2 on Saturday. Coach Mike Bianco’s squad struggled in multiple phases, especially at the plate where they were expected to be red hot, being outscored 27-4 and only managing to cumulate 11 hits in three games.

Pitching showed to be an additional concern for an Ole Miss team plagued by injuries with the absence of ace LHP Hunter Elliott, junior RHP Josh Mallitz, and sophomore RHP Riley Maddox. The lack of reliable starting pitching and quality depth in the bullpen paired with an inability to effectively hit the ball put Ole Miss in a tough position versus a disciplined Commodores team.

“It’s just disappointing. We’ve got to do a lot of things better,” Bianco said on SportsTalk Mississippi. “We’ve got to pitch it better. You can’t win a weekend giving up 27 runs. We’ve got to hit it better. We scored four runs, and that was the one thing that we were pretty consistent on throughout this season so far.”

The Rebels will take on Arkansas Pine-Bluff Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. CT and will have a chance to get back in even standings in conference play against Florida this coming weekend. During the 2022 season, the Rebels had a 14-16 SEC record before going on a magical run that ended with a national championship.

In Lexington, Mississippi State (13-8, 0-3 SEC) was swept by Kentucky (18-2, 3-0 SEC), losing 6-5 on Friday night, 12-3 Saturday, and 17-3 during Sunday’s game. Similarly to Ole Miss, the Bulldogs had difficulty putting runs on the board. However, pitching deficiencies were highlighted throughout the weekend series,

A competitive Friday performance from the Bulldogs’ pitching staff, including freshman switch-pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje, proved to be insufficient as the Wildcats edged out a one-run victory in extra innings. Then, it all fell apart on Saturday and Sunday. In the back end of the series, MSU gave up 29 runs on 24 hits and struggled to effectively work the strike zone.

“It is hard, especially in the SEC, but we have a tendency right now to make it harder than it should be,” Mississippi State head coach Chris Lemonis said. “We had a seven-game win streak going in. We played pretty well Friday night. I kind of feel like we kicked that one away. They beat us on Saturday and Sunday, but we beat ourselves a good bit too by just not playing fundamental baseball.”

MSU will look to get back on track during a midweek match versus Arkansas State on Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT before welcoming Vanderbilt to Dudy Noble Stadium for a three-game weekend series beginning Friday.

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