Ole Miss had Mississippi State on the ropes but let the Bulldogs off. The Rebels could have helped their own postseason cause Sunday but instead it was State that got a boost.
Where did it get away from Ole Miss, which led 6-0 after three innings and had bases loaded in the fourth with one out but failed to score? How about right there?
The Rebels only had five hits on the day. MSU had 11.
There’s your story, or part of it. Certainly the Ole Miss bullpen collectively wasn’t up to what was needed. But the fact is this bullpen seems to have become less effective lately overall. In the Rebels’ last five losses, they’ve had the lead in the sixth inning. Perhaps there are less pitchers that can be counted on to come through for various reasons – tiredness, soreness, number of innings logged.
Therefore, it needed some more offensive help against a MSU pitching staff that was all but depleted after two days. Or so it appeared. But take a look at the ERAs of the final three pitchers MSU used on this day; the ones after starter Jacob Lindgren, whose ERA is 3.44.
Jonathan Holder, the MSU closer who entered in the second inning and went two innings, with an ERA of 1.26. Chad Girodo with a 1.46 ERA; he went an inning. Ben Bracewell with an ERA of 1.83 went the final five innings.
And Ole Miss did not score an earned run off any of the three. Your story? Another big part of it.
Ole Miss (35-17, 14-13) simply could not hit MSU pitching in the finale after the Bulldogs had made mistakes early and the Rebels had jumped on the visitors 6-0. The two hits off Lindgren came in the first inning when the Rebels scored three runs.
Bobby Wahl, who started the Friday night game and went just an inning when the rains came, started Sunday and went 5.1 innings, allowing three runs on four hits with six strikeouts but five walks.
“I felt pretty good,” Wahl said. “I really don’t know what to say. It was just one of those things where I came out (of the game) with the bases loaded. I put the bullpen in a bad situation. Put those few runs on me there. It’s frustrating.”
“I thought he gave us a valiant effort,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco of Wahl. “(After the delay from Friday) he came back on Sunday, and I thought he was terrific. We knew we were a little thin in the pen today. So we tried to squeeze another (inning) out of (Wahl), and it got away from us quickly.”
Bianco said credit the Bulldogs, now 37-15, 14-13. “That’s a very good State team,” he said.
They do appear to be a quality team. A lesser team would have folded on the road at its arch-rival, down 6-0 and having already lost two games. Maybe there’s some of your story, too.
“This will go down as we blew the lead, had a six-run lead going into the sixth inning,” Bianco said. “But the truth of the matter is they just played better. They hit better and ultimately they pitched better. They hung in there and we couldn’t stop them at the end. Lot of base hits, good at-bats, and obviously we didn’t pitch well enough at the end.”
MSU head coach John Cohen said his team felt it was going to win Sunday the entire time, even when it was down 6-0.
“We did a lot of things not characteristic of our team early,” Cohen said. “But the kids had a business-like approach and never got down. They always felt like they were going to win the game. They were not going to let (the sweep) happen.”
MSU hosts South Carolina this weekend and should the Bulldogs win that series, they’ll be right back in the conversation of hosting an NCAA first and second-round Regional, something the Bulldogs haven’t done since 2003.
Sunday was a great opportunity for Ole Miss to remain in that conversation as well. Now they have to win a series in a place they haven’t won more than one game in any series since 1982 – at LSU.
This was a successful weekend for Ole Miss. The Rebels had lost their last two series – at home to Kentucky and at Auburn. This was only the Rebels’ second SEC series win at home this year. The other was a sweep of Alabama.
But there is always that bitter taste of defeat when it comes on Sunday, even if your team has won the previous two games.
“A disappointing way to finish the weekend,” Bianco said.
As for the pitching this week, Bianco said he would have to evaluate it. It does not appear Wahl would be the Thursday night starter at LSU. Perhaps Mike Mayers, but that remains to be seen.
The Rebels play at Southern Mississippi Tuesday night and are then in Baton Rouge Thursday through Saturday.- Jeff Roberson, OMSpirit.com