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Pitching struggles, offenses fades late as Ole Miss falls to Alabama

The frustration in Mike Bianco’s voice was palpable after Ole Miss’ 8-6 loss to Alabama on Saturday to even the series.

“It was just a bad baseball game all the way around,” Bianco said. “They did more than we did.”

The Rebels slogged through another sluggish, multi-error performance that was comprised of some reoccurring issues. Starter Zach Phillips didn’t make it out of the second inning, exiting with two outs in the frame and being charged with two earned runs as the Rebels fell in a 2-0 hole. Grae Kessinger booted a ground ball to leadoff the inning that led to the two unearned runs and helped contribute to Phillips’ demise, though Phillips didn’t help himself with four walks in 10 total batters faced.

The offense has become accustomed to playing out of early holes as the starting pitching behind Will Ethridge has struggled to go deep into games. But the Rebels quickly answered with a five-run second inning that bounced Crimson Tide starter Brock Love after 1.2 innings. It felt as if Ole Miss had rectified an early hiccup against an inferior Crimson Tide and taken control of the game. 

A four-run second inning by the Crimson Tide proved that theory false. Taylor Broadway gave up a leadoff triple to Kolby Robinson and then a solo shot two batters later to Joe Breaux as the margin quickly shrunk to one at 5-4. Broadway was pulled in favor of Connor Green after the long ball. Green has been Ole Miss’ most consistent reliever this season, giving up just one run in 13.1 innings on the year entering the outing. Alabama proved to be a struggle, thoug. The senior right-hander surrendered a double and a pair of two-out singles that led to two more Alabama runs as the Tide snagged a 6-5 lead.

“We allowed too many base runners on and didn’t catch it well enough,” Bianco said. “We made the game too hard.”

The offense faded after the second inning. The Rebels mustered just three hits over the final seven frames. It wasn’t for a lack off opportunity. Ole Miss left 11 runners on base. The Crimson Tide yielded eight walks and hit three batters. The Rebels stranded multiple base runners in the fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings, and one more in the ninth.

“I don’t think we are pressing,” Anthony Servideo said. “I think when we have runners on in scoring position, we have to find away to get them in. Lay down a bunt, hit it in the air and let them tag up, stuff like that. We just have to be better all around.”

Ole Miss tied the game in the fourth when Servideo scored from first base on a ground ball off the bat of Tyler Keenan that Alabama second baseman Morgan McCullough left by him. Max Cioffi and Tyler Myers bridged the game to the seventh. Doug Nikhazy ran into trouble in the eighth and was relieved for Ryan Olenek after a leadoff base hit.  Olenek struck out two batters before being tagged or a base hit and the game-turning 2-RBI double from Drew Williamson down the left field line.

Thomas Dillard grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play with two on eighth and Ole Miss went quietly in the ninth. Dillard has struggled of late, 0 for his last 15. Between Dillard’s recent but minor scuffle and the season-long struggles from Tim Elko and Chase Cockrell, the Rebels are searching for production and not getting it from sources it thought it would. Six runs is more than enough to win a ballgame, but the timely hit has eluded the team of late.

“We have to be better all around,” Servideo said. “We need everything to start clicking, our pitching and getting timely hits. We left too many guys on base. We have to be better.”

Servideo echoed the message Bianco had just issued his team in right field following the loss.

“We need more performers,” Bianco said. “If you are going to play in this league, you have to be a performer. We are not getting enough performance. We are waiting too much. When you are good, you get good nights from different people. We are not getting that.”

Photo credit: Joshua McCoy — Ole Miss Athletics 

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