After starting the season on opposite sides of the coin, the No. 8 Ole Miss Rebels (3-0) will welcome the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks (0-4) to Oxford-University Stadum for a Wednesday night tilt. It is the 14th meeting between the two teams at Swayze Field with Ole Miss holding a commanding 12-1 advantage.
The two teams met last March with the Rebels polishing off the Skyhawks 20-4. Zach Kirksey hit two home runs, including a grand slam and Matt Snyder added a three-run home run of his own. The Diamond Rebs worked through eight Skyhawk pitchers, one of whom was Carter Smith, Wednesday’s starter.
Smith is 0-1 this season in one appearance in relief. He pitched 1.1 innings, gave up 1 hit, 1 walk, and 1 unearned run that proved to be the difference in the ballgame. The St. Louis native gave up 1 run on a hit and a walk in the seventh inning against Ole Miss last season. For the 2012 year, he posted a 3-3 record with an 8.10 ERA. Batters hit .329 against him, belting out 8 home runs, and striking out 27 times to 23 walks.
Another sophomore Smith will be on the mound for Ole Miss. He’s making his first start of the season and will be looking to avenge a shaky 2012 campaign as well. His freshman season saw him exhibit great control, walking only 8 batters in 35.2 innings. He only surrendered one long ball, but was knocked around for 50 hits and pitched too many long innings. Coach Mike Bianco has raved about his improvement this offseason and the highly sought after prospect will have a chance to prove his coach right tonight against the Skyhawks.
Like Ole Miss, UT-Martin lost a lot of offensive production from last year’s team. They return their leadoff man Grant Glasser who is averaging .333 this season, up from his .293 in 2012. He struggled with strikeouts last year, going down on strikes an average of 1.0 per game. Chase Okey and Jordan Owen are gone and have been replaced in the middle of the order by Brent Morris and freshman Kenny King. The two have struggled in the role, combining for 3-20 this season with 0 extra-base hits.
Ole Miss will look to ride the hot streak of Auston Bousfield who was 5-11 against TCU with 2 stolen bases. Stuart Turner struggled in the first few games, but came alive on Sunday to rope a grand slam and a double off the wall. The team’s second-leading hitter from 2012, Tanner Mathis, hit just .154 in the series and will look to break out against the Skyhawks.
This is the first of 14 midweek games for the Rebels in 2013, including 7 at home. They were the talk of the baseball world this weekend after a sweep over a heralded TCU team that eliminated the Rebels from the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The momentum from that series will need to continue tonight as they have a weekend series against Rhode Island, a team that gave Florida State a run last weekend. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. from Swayze Field in Oxford.