A few thoughts on Ole Miss’ 2-1 series win over Vanderbilt …

I guess it’s possible Jack Leiter could have been captured by aliens, and Ole Miss could have swept, bu I really think the weekend went as well as it could possibly go for the Rebels … even if it was ugly sometimes.

And it was very ugly on Saturday. Four out of five dentists surveyed say teams that give up seven home runs find it difficult to win.

Difficult circumstances – such as losing one of the best pitchers in the nation days before hosting the No. 2 team – have a way prompting others to elevate their play.

I didn’t really see that from Derek Diamond or Drew McDaniel, and that waves a warning flag since these guys will be leading contenders for SEC rotation spots next year.

They’ve been good in other spots: Diamond against Texas, Alabama and LSU, McDaniel against MSU and Texas A&M. There’s something to work with, but neither elevated this weekend.

Doug Nikhazy didn’t elevate either but pitched with the exceptional proficiency that he’s often displayed.

He pumped life into the series for Ole Miss because when you win the first game a lot can happen.

The best thing the Rebels could have hoped for was a split in the Kumar Rocker/Leiter games. Nikhazy out-pitched Rocker and made it happen.

That put the onus on the Ole Miss offense to beat Vanderbilt’s No. 3 pitcher – whoever that turned out to be – and the Rebels did that with long balls, patient at-bats and timely hitting.

I hear “game management” often used as a criticism of Mike Bianco, and there are certainly examples to question Bianco.

But it was “game management” that helped Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin lose the game and the series on Sunday when he went with left-hander Hunter Owen as his first arm out of the pen. Ole Miss had lefty bats Hayden Dunhurst and soon Hayden Leatherwood coming up. Dunhurst doubled in two runs to put Ole Miss ahead, and Leatherwood was hit by a pitch.

Owen would go on to give up home runs to Cael Baker, and another lefty bat in Jacob Gonzalez.

Owen had thrown fewer than 5 SEC innings before yesterday.

Somewhere in that scant use Corbin saw something he liked, but it didn’t work out yesterday.

Credit the Ole Miss offense for doing what it had to do to back the Rebels’ thin pitching depth.

Speaking of pitching depth, lefty reliever Jackson Kimbrell did elevate, and while one game does not mean Kimbrell has “arrived,” it certainly offers hope and a perhaps a piece of good news when the Rebels desperately needed some after the loss of Gunnar Hoglund.

Middle relief has been terribly inconsistent, but there’s been some reshuffling in that bullpen, and it could be that from Jack Dougherty, Tyler Myers and maybe Jackson Kimbrell there will be ample middle relief options for postseason.

They will will definitely be needed unless one or both of Diamond and McDaniel elevate in the coming weeks.


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