BASEBALL: About last night (and night before)

The Rebels will practice at Samford this afternoon, and I’ll have a few notes from there as well.

Some thoughts and observations from Ole Miss’ first two games in the SEC tournament:

Michael Guerrero: This transfer from Meridian Community College, a Southaven kid, had some big at-bats and showed some power earlier in the season, though his average had dipped at the time of his injury, a stress fracture in his foot.

He got back on the field for the Auburn series and really looks to be hitting a stride offensively in these first two games. He’s gotten off really good swings, and even many of his outs have been hit hard.

Guerrero’s returned has underscored how important he is to a lineup that has struggled to score runs.

I think I Nate mentioned this in an earlier post, but Guerrero could be on a run similar to Mark Wright’s hot streak that earned him the tournament MVP title in 2006.

We’ll see.

Matt Smith: The guy has struck out so much this season that the immediate question when he comes to the plate is “looking or swinging.”

The redshirt freshman first baseman has struck out three times in eight tournament at-bats, but when he does make contact he’s getting off better swings than he has been of late.

His home run last night was a monster shot to the deepest part of a monster park where it’s 405 feet to straight center.

Smith has had two other at-bats in these two games that have been outs but might have been home runs elsewhere. Certainly Smith’s drive that was caught by Georgia center fielder Matt Cerione just before he crashed into the wall would have been out of many other parks.

These two games don’t mean that Smith has turned a corner, but it could mean he’s approaching it, and could be on pace to make a significant jump next season.

Combined, an Ole Miss team that has struggled to score runs may be getting an important lift from two important bats.

Smith hasn’t been only about the long ball. He’s had a couple of hits right back up the middle, including last night’s swing off James Paxton to drive in two runs with two outs in the third. If he Ks there, the Rebels don’t win.

Pitching: Not a bad job by the freshman last night. He gave up three earned runs over 4 2-3 innings, scattering five hits. It was clear that Kentucky had figured out Pomeranz in the fourth inning when it got four hits and scored three runs to tie the game.

Pomeranz was able to strike out nine-hole hitter Marcus Nidiffer for the last out of the fourth. I thought it was risky to trot Pomeranz back out there for the fifth, but he got two outs with a fly ball and a comebacker before losing his control with two walks. His two outs, though, made it much easier for Brett Bukvich who retired the first batter he faced to get out of the inning.

Nice relief work from Bukvich and Jake Morgan. Both gave up multiple runs, but both gave up only one earned run. They were victimized by errors in the field, and Morgan would have been the loser if not for Guerrero’s heroics. The run Morgan gave up in the ninth was earned, however. Bukvich went 2 innings, Morgan 2 1-3.

The Bittle Button: All-SEC reliever Scott Bittle did go down to the pen and warm-up last night, but Bittle would only have pitched had the Rebels gotten the lead in the ninth and then he’d have pitched only for an inning tops. Had he pitched, it would have been the third appearance in five days for Bittle.

Pace of the game: It was moving along nicely until John Cohen started changing pitchers like underwear. The Cats used five in all. Three of them threw only 1-3 of an inning.

The pace was also affected by the umpire’s strike zone, which I thought was kind of small. Pomeranz consistently worked ahead in the count and was able to make that adjustment better than UK starter James Paxton.

Paxton threw a seven-hit complete game shutout against Ole Miss last Friday. The second time around the Rebels didn’t exactly rip him, but they got some clutch hits — like those from Cody Overbeck and Matt Smith in the third inning. The Rebels also seemed more patient at the plate and more willing to take a walk. Paxton did not adjust to the zone and walked five in his 3 1-3 inning stint. Two of his walks scored and a third, Brett Basham, reached third base.

Others playing well: Others having good tournaments offensively are Jordan Henry and Fuller Smith, the top of the order guys. Henry is 5-for-9 in two games, Smith, of nearby Vestavia Hills, is 4-for-9.

Freshman shortstop Tim Ferguson has been fair defensively, but his error on a ground ball by Troy Frazier was almost a difference-maker last night. Still, he’s the best option at shortstop right now. Sean Stuyverson hasn’t distinguished himself defensively, and Ferguson gets more done at the plate. Ferguson is 3-for-7 with an RBI, a run scored and a crucial steal of third base in Wednesday’s win over Georgia.

Logan Power was hitless last night (0-for-2) but had drawn two walks and scored when he led off the ninth with a single. Without Power on base I might still be covering that game.

— PA

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14 Responses to “BASEBALL: About last night (and night before)”

  1. bhamdawg Says:

    PA do you know what time Ole Miss will be practicing at Samford today? I actually work here at Samford in the Pete Hanna Center, the new basketball arena.

  2. rebelnate Says:

    How far do you think these two wins propelled them in the NCAA talks.

    Jack Cox the plate umpire is the most inconsistant in the game IMAO.

  3. cr Says:

    25 strikeouts in two games is pretty impressive work by the pitching staff and more than offsets the walks we have given up. Finally our offense has more walks than the other team and it has really paid dividends.

    We are really playing well right now – and just in time.

  4. rebelnate Says:

    I can’t believe you have said something positive about this team cr.

  5. cr Says:

    I do get frustrated with them.

  6. djrebel Says:

    Bhamdawg, I’m sorry I’m late getting back to you. I just got back from Samford. The Rebels started about 1:30 and I’m guessing they’ll go for an hour or hour and a half.

    One of the most enjoyable things about the tournament is when the team I’m covering wins twice and practices at Samford. State did it once, and I’ve done it with Ole Miss I guess four times now.

    Absolutely beautiful campus and first-class facilities for athletics, which I see, and I’m sure for many more things that I don’t see.

    Yesterday and today I did my walking on the track around the football stadium.

    — PA

  7. rebelnate Says:

    You do and got an awesome job PA

  8. bhamdawg Says:

    No prob PA. I watched the majority of practice out of my office window. Yea the facilities are really nice here, I have enjoyed my time here so far. I will back rebelnate up on the comment.. you and GG do a fine job. Good luck to the rebs the rest of the tourney.

  9. djrebel Says:

    Thanks guys. I appreciate your support.

    — PA

  10. Jeff Jolly Says:

    PA,
    These first two games are the first I’ve seen in person this year. I think we figured out the offensive problems the last two nights.

    Kentucky made us realize what was happening. That is the most disciplined team I have ever seen at the plate. They do not swing at bad pitches. I think we only counted 2 pitches that would have been balls that they swung at. Granted they took a lot of strikes. But every strike our pitchers got…they earned.

    On the other hand several of our players were constantly swinging and missing pitches out of the strike zone. There were 10 or 12 golf swings…maybe more. We need to be more disciplined and make the opposing pitchers throw strikes. Don’t give them anything.

    Considering the tight strike zones the last two nights….we would probably have a lot more runs.

    Can’t wait til tomorrow morning…expecting a much larger crowd of Rebels.

  11. bigdraws Says:

    If LSU makes it into the finals it may break a record. They travel better than anyone in the conference.

  12. Jeff Jolly Says:

    You’re right big….and they’re fans really entertained us yesterday. I look for a lot more Rebels in town tonight and in the morning. I think a lot of people figured we would only be here two games and there was no need to take off work for two losses. Now that we’re in the winners bracket and only needing one win to get to the championship game….I think our fans will be here in droves.

    What is the actual record?

  13. cr Says:

    JJ

    Our offensive woes are exactly as you described. If Cohen winds up at MSU and teaches the same plate discipline our approach will become an even more glaring weakness. So many times this year we would be behind late and the bottom of our order would come out swinging at the first pitch and rarely with positive results. A frustrating team to watch – till now.

  14. bigdraws Says:

    MSU vs OM in 2005 has gotta be close Jeff. I think there was close to 13k there for that one. I’m prolly wrong though.

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