Tennessee handed Ole Miss its fifth connective loss in a 7-0 drubbing of the Rebels on Thursday evening.
Ole Miss put just one base runner in scoring position for the entirety of the game as Volunteer starter Garrett Stallings mowed down the Rebels in a four-hit complete game.
Stallings’ counterpart, Will Ethridge, matched that length to some degree. Ethridge made it 7 innings but surrendered seven runs, six earned on 10 hits with three strikeouts and no walks. The fifth inning was unkind to Ethridge as Tennessee padded a 1-0 lead with a four-spot, highlighted by a 2-RBI double from Ricky Martinez on a hanging, misplaced breaking ball in a 1-2 count from Ethrige. Martinez went 4-for-4 in the eight hole.
One run was enough for Stallings. Ole Miss was unable to solve the crafty right-hander. Stallings does not overwhelm with velocity or generate a lot fo swings-and-misses, but induces a lot of ground balls and is efficient in doing so. Cole Zabowski was the only man with a hit off Stallings through seven innings. Stallings needed just 103 pitches to endure nine innings. He induced 14 ground balls and five fly ball outs with seven strikeouts and no walks.
“It was a tough night and we needed a good offensive night and didn’t get it,” head coach Mike Bianco told Keith Kessinger in a postgame radio interview. “They got a lot of low strikes and he filled up the zone. Just one of those rough nights.”
Ole Miss was riding high just 11 days ago after earning its first series win in Baton Rouge since 1982, but have since entered a free fall down the homestretch of the regular season. The Rebels lost a baffling affair at Arkansas State on Tuesday in which they possessed a three-run lead in the ninth inning, only to surrender it in a 6-5 defeat. The loss came on the heels of Mississippi State sweeping Ole Miss in Oxford.
Sitting at 32-22 (15-12), this team’s hosting chances are all but extinguished and the Rebels are in a bit of a tailspin as the postseason approaches. Bianco announced Ethridge as the starter for Tuesday’s single elimination game in Hoover at the SEC Tournament. Ole Miss’ seeding and opponent has yet to be decided.
Doug Nikhazy will start on Friday as the Rebels try to even the series.