After a weekend of weather that could not have gone any better, Tuesday’s midweek tilt against the Memphis Tigers (4-3) is back to windy, frigid baseball. Last season saw a split between the two clubs with the Rebels winning in Oxford in February with a late-game rally in similar conditions to today. Memphis comes into this game on a roll after sweeping Missouri at home this weekend. As hot as the Tigers are, the Rebels (7-0) are even hotter after recording back-to-back sweeps over No. 14 TCU and Rhode Island.
This will be the Tigers’ first road game of the season and they have not had recent success in their road openers, losing five of their last six with three of those losses at Swayze Field. They will return to a pitcher who is all too familiar to the Rebels in Michael Wills. The senior left-hander pitched both games against Ole Miss last season, allowing a pair of runs in each outing with a no-decision coming in Oxford and a win in Memphis. Wills has only pitched in one game so far this season, allowing no runs and 5 hits in 4.2 innings in a 3-2 loss to Arkansas State. He earned a no-decision. A pitcher who relies on his off-speed, Wills is very hit or miss. Some games he can force a lot of bad swings and shut down an opposing offense, like he did last year against Ole Miss. Other times, he struggles to find the plate and winds up walking the barn or gives up too much of the plate and gets hammered. Mike Bianco’s lineup will have to work deep into the counts and force him to get behind.
Due to the emergency start by Sam Smith on Sunday, Josh Laxer will get the nod today for Ole Miss. In 5 innings of relief this season, Laxer has allowed 2 hits and 1 earned run with no decisions. The sophomore was 4-0 last season but gave up too many balls over the heart of the plate, allowing 5 doubles and 3 home runs in 27.1 innings. He will have the fortune of avoiding the big bats that sat in the Tiger order last season, McClain-Wilson-Hynes, all of which graduated. Right fielder Bryce Beeler and third baseman Drew Griffin have stepped up in their place so far this season, averaging .389 and .333 respectively. Beeler is patient and will make Laxer pitch to him while Griffin is more of a slugger and will try and capitalize on the mistake pitch. They will need help to score runs as leadoff man Ford Wilson is hitting just .160 this year with 0 walks and 9 strikeouts. The team likes to take off, going 10-15 on stolen bases this year, a challenge Stuart Turner is likely relishing.
Turner, Auston Bousfield and Andrew Mistone are all hitting .333 and providing a steady flow of offense for Bianco. Will Allen cranked his first home run of the season on Sunday and the Rebels are hoping that he and Sikes Orvis can provide the power this season. Both Tanner Mathis and Preston Overbey have impressed on defense, but they will need to come along at the plate if Ole Miss is to go deep in the postseason this year. Neither is batting above .300, with either player capable of catching fire at any time.
This will be the 137th meeting between the two teams with Ole Miss holding the 89-48 advantage. It will be a chilly day at the ballpark so dress accordingly. If you are not among the brave fans willing to bear the cold, the game can be found on the Rebels Radio Network. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. CT from beautiful Oxford-University Stadium.