A lethargic first inning foreshadowed the result to come in Ole Miss’ 9-5 loss to Wright State on Saturday afternoon.
The Rebels made two errors, one by Grae Kessinger on a ground ball and another three batters later by starting pitcher Zack Phillips that plated an unearned run. Phillips missed the bag at first base receiving a toss from Cole Zabowski on a slower roller between the mound and first base. An out would’ve gotten the Rebels out of the inning.
“I thought I had the bag,” Phillips said. “I felt like I got it.”
The first inning had a pair of lengthy reviews, including one on whether he did in fact step on the back or not, making for two awkward pause in action. Phillips stood idle for a bit before throwing some warm up pitches. It made it difficult to get in a rhythm.
“It was tough waiting, but I got out of the inning,” Phillip said. “Things just didn’t go my way.”
The next couple of frames were unkind to Phillips, who fell victim to some soft contact, but also contributed to his demise with a slip in command in a four-run third inning that prompted his early exit from the game and gave the Raiders a 5-0 lead. Phillips’ line closed at five charged runs, four earned on three six hits with two walks and a strikeout. It was a frustrating debut for the junior lefty.
“It was just one of those days where the ball didn’t go my way,” Phillips said. “A couple cap shots here and there that found the hole. It is just baseball. There are some pitches I could’ve made better. There are five or so pitches I wish I would’ve had back. Other than that, it was just the game of baseball. It happens.”
Phillips’ counter part was sharp. Wright State starter Zane Collins turned in four innings of one-hit baseball before Ole Miss got to him in a three-run fifth. The Rebels put together a collection of poor at bats early on in the game, falling into an irrecoverable 8-0 hole.
“I was disappointed we didn’t have some better at bats,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “He was 6-1 a year ago and a guy they counted on, and I am not trying to take anything away from him, but I just thought the first four innings we didn’t play well in any phase. It was bad.”
To Bianco’s point, Ole Miss’ approach was poor and helped fuel the outing Collins put together. It improved late, but not to a level that rectify the position the Rebels put themselves in with their early struggles. Ole Miss scored a run in the sixth and another in the eighth on a Thomas Dillard solo shot, and then loaded the bases in the ninth and sent the tying run to the plate, but a weak grounder to first off the bat of Tyler Keenan ended the game.
Taylor Broadway struggled in succession of Phillips, but Max Cioffi gave the team some semblance of stability with his 3.2 innings of one-hit scoreless ball that pushed the game to the seventh. Freshman lefty Kaleb Hill put up a scoreless frame in the eighth and gave up a run in the ninth, but pitched pretty efficiently in his collegiate debut
“That is what you hope for,” Mike Bianco said. “Cioffi pitched well and I am proud of Hill. First college appearance and looked pretty dominant, but gave up the run in the ninth.”
This was a game Ole Miss lost within the first four innings. It was sloppy in the field and undisciplined at the plate. Freshman Gunnar Hogland makes his debut in the rubber game on Sunday as the team tries avoid a sour opening weekend to its 2019 campaign.
“With our offense, we always feel like we are always in it,” Bianco said. “But we have to do more earlier in the game.”
Photo credit: Joshua McCoy — Ole Miss Athletics