baseball Edit

Ole Miss 'didn't play well in any phase' in 9-5 loss to Wright State

OXFORD | Mike Bianco made sure to point out clean defense and overall crisp play as a positive to the win on Friday. A day later, the early innings were the exact opposite, as the Rebels fumbled away any hopes at a series-clincher against Wright State.

Two first-inning errors set the tone, and the Raiders scored the first eight runs of the game before evening the weekend with a 9-5 victory over the Rebels.

The rubber game is set for noon on Sunday with rain expected to leave the area by late morning.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Thomas Dillard had two hits (both for extra bases) and reached base three times on Saturday, highlighting his afternoon with a lengthy home run over the student section in right field. With one out in the eighth, Dillard, hitting from the left side, sent a no-doubter that cut the deficit to three runs.

Ole Miss wouldn’t get any closer, but the Rebels’ clean-up hitter is batting .833 through two games. He’s also staying selective, making pitchers come into the zone and elevating on missed locations. It’s just two games, but Dillard has been textbook with approach and execution.

Dillard was on deck when the game ended.

PLAY OF THE GAME

After a two-pitch out opened the third inning, Phillips walked Wright State star Peyton Burdick on a full count. It seemed innocuous enough at the time, but it led to four straight runners reaching base, including a two-run double. Wright State scored four runs in the inning and pushed the game to 5-0 at the time.

The walk set it up, as Zack Phillips spent much of the inning behind in the count. During the two walks to set the table in the frame, eight of 11 pitches were balls. While the Raiders did plenty of direct damage, the walks and struggles in the count made it possible. The walk to Burdick got it going and is an example of what plagued Phillips.

“The third inning was different, not as many strikes,” Ole Miss head coach Bianco said. “He fell behind, and it’s unfortunate we didn’t help him better in the first and make it easier, but at end of the day credit them with a lot of big hits with runners in scoring position.”

NOTES AND THOUGHTS

Phillips’ first start with Ole Miss wasn’t a memorable one, as the Raiders roughed him up for six hits and five runs (four earned) in 2.2 innings. He walked two, struck out one and gave up three doubles. Thirty three of his 54 pitches went for strikes.

Two errors, including one of his own, immediately sent his rhythm haywire in the early going, and he couldn’t recover during the outing. Phillips gave up two runs in 10 intrasquad innings during the preseason, relying on an ever-improving breaking ball, fastball command and, frankly, confidence. Each of those was off on Saturday.

Phillips’ fastball velocity never hit 90 MPH, and the command faltered, as balls out and over the plate were punished by a Wright State team that was top 10 nationally in runs per game last season. I think cleaner defense could have set a different tone, but instead the outing was uneven and a bad introduction to Division I baseball. One appearance isn’t enough to shape an overall opinion, but the big positive for a starter is minimizing damage and regrouping on the fly. That’s the thing to watch for improvement-wise moving forward.

Chase Cockrell played a complete game in his first outing as an outfielder. The senior had two hits and also produced an early outfield assist that seemed big at the time. Cockrell, in the first inning, ended the frame by gathering up Seth Gray’s single and firing to Cooper Johnson for the tag on Zane Harris. The second umpire review of the inning delayed the outcome before the Rebels escaped with just a one-run deficit.

Max Cioffi is coming off an impressive freshman season and threw 3.2 shutout relief innings on Saturday, striking out five and keeping Wright State quiet to give Ole Miss some semblance of a chance at a comeback. The Illinois native is a vital bridge in the bullpen, and he maintained excellent command for nearly 60 pitches. It was a silver lining in the rough day.

Kaleb Hill is going to be a star in this league at some point. He gave up a big hit and an insurance run in the ninth to spoil his outing, but for a collegiate debut he flashed the talent despite struggling with two walks and a hit in two innings. The left-hander hit 94 MPH on the radar gun and shows impressive stuff. It’s not there yet, but it will be one day.

Wright State starter Zane Collins held Ole Miss to one hit through five innings using a high 80s fastball and a good curveball. He was good, and he’s experienced, but that shouldn’t have happened. Ole Miss had poor at-bats the first four innings and allowed Collins to get into a rhythm and dictate at-bats.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t have better at-bats,” Bianco said. “He’s obviously someone they count on so not taking away from him but the first four innings we didn’t play well in any phase of the game. It was bad.”

Wright State was 10-for-21 with runners on base and 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Ole Miss was 4-for-17 with runners on base.