Ole Miss loses rubber match, drops sixth straight series to Mississippi State

Published 10:29 am Sunday, April 24, 2022

OXFORD, MISS — While Ole Miss may run the ‘Sip in football, basketball, golf, rifle, tennis and cross country, they definitely do not have a claim to the title of the best baseball team in the state.

The Rebels (21-17, 6-12 SEC) have lost six straight series to rival Mississippi State dating back to 2016. Their win on Thursday night marked just their fourth victory against the Bulldogs over that stretch, during which they have posted an abysmal 4-18 record against their in-state rivals.

Ole Miss had a chance to secure their first series victory against Mississippi State on Saturday, but their bullpen woes and questionable offensive approach came back to bite them once again as they fell 7-6 in 11 innings.

Their feast-or-famine approach at the plate has led to plenty of crowd-pleasing moonshots into the outfield stands, but has also proved ineffective with runners on base, especially late in games. More than half of their runs in SEC play have come on the long ball, which is great for fan-fare and short-lived excitement but does not usually translate into postseason success.

The Rebels have posted a 31.4% strikeout rate in conference play, recording almost 50 more strikeouts that hits against SEC opponents. Four players have struck out more than 20 times in SEC contests, and six average more than one strikeout per conference game.

Those statistics bore out on Saturday, when Ole Miss struck out 12 times in 39 at-bats while going 2-for-11 with runners on base and 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

The Rebels struggle to win conference games even when they do rack up runs. They are 5-6 in SEC contests where they score at least four runs as the offense struggles to keep pace with a pitching staff that is allowing almost seven runs per game in conference play.

Ole Miss is currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the SEC tournament, as they sit at 13th in the conference and just one game above last-place Missouri with road series against No. 2 Arkansas and No. 22 LSU still on the horizon.

The Rebels are quickly running out of time to secure their 10th consecutive SEC tournament appearance. They will try to get back on track against Mississippi State on Tuesday in the annual Governor’s Cup at Trustmark Park in Pearl, but that game will not count towards their conference record.

They get back to conference play next weekend when they travel to Fayetteville to take on No. 2 Arkansas. Game two of that series will be available on ESPN2, while Sunday’s series finale will be the only regular-season SEC baseball game broadcast on the main ESPN channel.