Jack Washburn makes critical pitches before Ole Miss offense explodes
OXFORD | Jack Washburn knew he needed to get off the field.
A week after Washburn allowed two runs in the opening inning against Arkansas State, he gave up a walk and a bloop and faced two runners in scoring position with one out — an inauspicious start to his second significant opportunity.
But instead of the the hit by pitch that brought in a run last week or any self-inflicted damage, Washburn buckled down. He threw seven total pitches for two straight strikeouts, both swinging, to end the inning and strand the runners.
“It was good, a good bounce-back from last week,” Washburn said. “It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was good to throw strikes and get off the field.”
The Oregon State transfer retired seven of eight hitters during the stretch and put together a quality start while waiting on the offense to explode. And explode it did.
The Rebels scored six runs in the fifth and six runs in the sixth to run-rule ULM, 11-1, in seven innings. Ole Miss is 8-0 to finish up its homestand before a three-game series at UCF this weekend.
Out of the eight wins, five have gone fewer than nine innings. Ole Miss has scored double digits in seven straight games with nine runs scored in the other game — the season opener versus Charleston Southern.
“It’s unbelievable every game, it really is,” Washburn said of the offense. “They keep adding on. It’s a blessing to have that behind me.”
Washburn allowed one run in five innings, striking out seven and walking four on 84 pitches and 46 strikes. The walks brought about trouble, but other than a fourth-inning balk with two runners on that gave ULM its only lead, the right-handed kept things at bay with critical pitches.
In that fourth inning, a walk and a Hayden Leatherwood error set the table for the balk. With a runner at third right after that, Washburn got another swinging strikeout to finish the frame.
He erased a second-inning walk with a pickoff, and in the fifth and final inning, a four-pitch walk was stranded because he threw four strikes in five pitches and got two quick and routine outs.
“It hasn’t been easy for him and some of that he’s taken responsibility and ownership of and some of it is just baseball and the baseball gods,” Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. “Bloop ball gets in for only single. And a ball gets lost in the sun… a play we have to make.
“But he got off the field and didn’t give up hits. He got strikeouts when he needed them and even got a pickoff when he needed it against a team that runs. He worked really hard for that.”
Washburn’s talent and potential are obvious, as he’s struck out 12 in nine innings so far this season with only one earned run, surviving off his secondary pitches that can be spotted for throwing for swing and miss. However, he’s also walked nine batters.
Kevin Graham and Tim Elko each hit a grand slam on Wednesday. Elko’s went 432 feet and over the batter’s eye. The Rebels didn’t score in the first three innings for the first time this season before the onslaught.
Elko drove in the tying run in the fourth with a groundout after Jacob Gonzalez started the inning with a triple.
Ole Miss had 11 hits. Hayden Leatherwood went 3-for-3. Calvin Harris went 2-for-3 and is hitting .611 on the season.