Bases Loaded: Rebels exposed after shocking loss

Posted on Apr 3 2019 - 5:50am by Josh Gollihar

Midweek matchups with recently elevated Division I programs can only hurt a resume. There is nothing to gain by beating them, but there sure is a downside to losing the game. Ole Miss will now experience the negative effects of such a loss after falling 10-6 to North Alabama on Tuesday afternoon.

The pitching staff never looked comfortable, and the offense sputtered against a team that is no stranger to giving up runs. The visiting team in no way resembled a team earning its sixth win of the season. This matchup is one to circle when assessing resumes after the SEC Tournament.

Ole Miss outfielder Tim Elko steals second base during the Rebels’ matchup against UT Martin earlier this season. Ole Miss won the game 12-6. File photo by Christian Johnson

First Base: Midweek starting pitching is an issue.

Mike Bianco altered his normal approach of starting Jordan Fowler during midweek games to give Max Cioffi the start. Cioffi’s performance this season makes him one of the most reliable arms in the bullpen. In his first start of the season, however, he did not perform at the expected level. He surrendered 5 runs over 3.2 innings, and only two of those runs were earned.

The worst thing that could have happened for the Ole Miss pitching staff happened on Tuesday. With Cioffi’s early exit, Bianco had to dip into the bullpen often. Seven pitchers took the mound in the loss to North Alabama. Connor Green, Taylor Broadway and Houston Roth all pitched at least an inning. Ryan Olenek pitched a clean ninth inning to save other arms for the weekend.

North Alabama tied its season record of 10 runs, and the Lions established a new season high of 14 hits.

Second Base: Full-strength lineup is unable to outscore an inferior opponent.

The Lions’ starter Colin Chamblin came into Tuesday’s game with a 6.21 ERA, having allowed 17 runs and 11 walks over 23 innings. He lasted 3.0 innings but only gave up 2 runs against Ole Miss.

Hunter Davidson, another Lion, entered the game in the fifth inning and completely shut down the Ole Miss lineup, keeping the Rebels scoreless over 4.0 innings of work. He surrendered a single hit and 3 walks.

Only two hitters in the Ole Miss lineup, Tyler Keenan and Jacob Adams, had multiple hits, and Olenek and Carl Gindl each failed to register a hit. The team went 4-14 with runners in scoring position, stranding 11 runners on base. This is the second consecutive game in which the Ole Miss offense has left double-digit runners on base.

Kevin Graham was one bright spot of the offense. The freshman hit his fourth home run of the season in the ninth inning, showing that he is capable of being a power bat in the lineup going forward.

Third Base: A supposedly meaningless game could resurface down the road.

Coming off a series win against a top-10 opponent on the road, the Rebels seemed to have  turned a corner. Prior to Tuesday’s game, the team’s RPI was 30th in the country, whereas North Alabama’s 5-21 record had them ranked 285 out of 299 schools. This loss is an RPI-dropper.

There are still many RPI opportunities remaining in SEC play and the midweek schedule. However, dropping a game to a team that low puts pressure on the Rebels to win a lot of games down the stretch.

A bad loss to North Alabama on a Tuesday could potentially keep Ole Miss from hosting a regional or even getting into the tournament at season’s end. If Ole Miss and another closely ranked team are being debated by the committee, this is a loss that could hold the Rebels back from a favorable seed in the tournament.