The 2019 season has been a struggle for Zack Phillips, but believes he has found something in his mechanics.
The discovery has led to more satisfactory results his last two outings. Phillips tossed six innings of two-run ball in what was his second longest outing of the season in Ole Miss’ 5-2 win over Memphis.
The junior left-hander struck out six and walked two.
“I have been pulling too much with my glove side,” Phillips said. “I have just reached out and grabbed towards the plate.”
He said he deviated from this early on in the season. The results corroborate his story. Phillips completed five innings only twice in his first six starts. He’s seen the fifth inning in each of his last two outings. The purer delivery has allowed him to stay in the strike zone more consistently. Phillips has only walked two hitters in his last 10.1 innings. He is throwing more strikes and making quality pitches at a more consistent rate.
“A lot of back-to-back pitches,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “It isn’t good pitch, bad pitch. It is back-to-back good pitches. Last week in Pearl, it started after the second inning. He has run through a lot of good innings. That is the difference with pitchers most of the time. There are a handful of pitches throughout the game that if you make them, your outing can be terrific. If you don’t, the outing will be different.”
To Bianco’s point, Phillips never compounded mistakes. After four shutout innings, he gave up a two-out RBI double to Ben Brooks in the fifth. He nixed any further damage with a fly out to left. Hunter Goodman demolished a hanging breaking ball to dead center for a solo shot begin the sixth inning. Phillips recorded two strikeouts and a weak pop up to end the inning after that.
In past starts, mistakes have swelled to crooked numbers on the scoreboard, long innings and premature exits. Phillips maintained control of the game this time.
“I felt really good today,” Phillips said. “Me and Coach Lafferty have been working on some mechanics stuff that I got away from early in the year. I am starting to find it.”
It was an underwhelming night for both offenses as Ole Miss mustered just three hits off of the Tigers’ pitching staff. Memphis threw two lefties beginning with starter Danny Denz, who yielded four runs, three earned, on two hits in three innings. Cole Zabowski hit an RBI double that sparked a four-run fourth inning aided by a walk and an error. Josh Hall dropped down a bunt for a hit that plated an Anthony Servideo bunt single for the fourth run.
Ole Miss has struggled mightily to hit left-handed pitching, slashing .214/.315/.374 on the year. In its defense in this particular case, Memphis walked 10 hitters on the evening.
Hall made his first career start in place of an injured Ryan Olenek, who re-injured his left hip after crashing into the wall and falling awkwardly the team’s game three loss to Kentucky. Olenek originally injured the hip after he was hit by the baseball two weekends ago against Florida.
“I know Ryan is down right now,” Hall said. “If they call on me, I know I will be ready.”
Bianco was not ready share Olenek’s status for the weekend, citing that Olenek has not participated in any baseball activities this week. Keep in mind, it is only Tuesday but the Rebels have a short week with its road series at Auburn beginning on Thursday.
Austin Miller bridged the game to the ninth with 1.2 innings of perfect relief of Houston Roth, who was pulled after three batters in the seventh. Roth induced a fly out before giving up a single and a walk. The Rebels were clinging to a 4-2 lead at the time and Bianco didn’t waste time going to Miller, who extinguished the threat with a pair of strikeouts.
“That is what he has done all year,” Bianco said. “We have had a lot of good closers here. I am not sure we have had a better guy right before the closer than Miller. He has been thrown in the fire in tough innings, like tonight with first and second with one out, he has done a lot for us this year.”
Parker Caracci recorded his 7th save of the season with a scoreless ninth. First pitch on Thursday against Auburn is slated for 6 P.M.
Photo credit: Joshua McCoy — Ole Miss Athletics