Ten months removed from a 10-5 loss in Jonesboro, the Ole Miss Rebels (21-4) will look to turn the tables on the Red Wolves in Oxford on Wednesday.
Arkansas State (16-9) will be playing their fourth of six SEC games this season. The Red Wolves lost in Nashville last month before splitting a doubleheader at Missouri last week. After Wednesday’s game in Oxford, they will play a home game against the Rebels in late April and will travel for a midweek game against Tennessee in May.
The Rebels and Red Wolves have played two common opponents so far this season. Arkansas State defeated Memphis on the road in 10 innings and routed UT-Martin in Jonesboro. Ole Miss also routed the Skyhawks but faltered in a rainy game against Memphis for their lone out-of-conference loss of the season.
ASU had won 6 of 7 entering Saturday, but like the Rebels, dropped their next two to close out the weekend on the short end of a three-game series. The series loss was to a solid Florida Atlantic team who has already defeated Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast this season while also taking Miami (Fl) to 11 innings.
Junior Cody Woodhouse will take the mound for Arkansas State. Woodhouse was the starter when the Red Wolves defeated Ole Miss, going 4.1 innings and allowing 2 runs over 5 hits and a strikeout in a no-decision. The wiry righty out of Mt. Home, Ark. has appeared in 6 games, started 2 and has yet to record a decision. He has a 1.23 ERA, tops on the team for a pitcher who has over over 1 inning.
Woodhouse is a power pitcher who has been able to get out of jams with the strikeout. Despite allowing 5 doubles and a home run in just 14.2 innings, he has only 2 earned runs due in large part to his 14 strikeouts. The defense has not been his ally this season with 4 unearned runs coming across while he’s been pitching. He struck out 7 batters in his last start, a 10-3 win over Missouri.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco will send sophomore Josh Laxer to the mound. Laxer is 2-0 this season with a 2.14 ERA in 6 appearances, including 3 starts. In his last outing, he pitched 6.1 innings, allowing 3 hits and 3 runs in a 10-4 win over UL-Monroe. Laxer figured in the decision and picked up his second win of the season. The Madison, Miss. native has vastly improved upon last year’s campaign that saw a 5.60 ERA with a .295 average against.
Laxer has walked 10 batters this season, striking out just 9. His command will have to improve against ASU who are sixth nationally in walks with 137. The Red Wolves also rank third nationally in sacrifice bunts with 35, so he will need the help of his defense, who are averaging just over an error per game.
The lineup for Arkansas State runs deep with players with distinct roles. The three outfielders head the lineup with left fielder Ryan Emery, a patient leadoff hitter setting the pace. Emery has walked 30 times already this season and is batting .304. Center fielder Collin Massanelli is one of the more aggressive hitters on the team with 28 strikeouts compared to just 6 walks. He is capable of exploding at any given time as proved by his three home run performance against UALR earlier this season. Right fielder Austin Baker is tied for the team-lead in home runs with 3 but is hitting just .254 out of the three-hole.
First baseman Logan Uxa has improved drastically in his junior season. After hitting 7 doubles in each of the past two seasons, he already has 9 this year. Second baseman Alex Potts has laid down 14 of the team’s 35 sacrifice bunts and has a .962 fielding percentage. Like Ole Miss’s Stuart Turner, the hottest hitter for ASU may be their catcher Ryan Roberts who hit 10-20 with 3 doubles in 5 games last week.
Speaking of Turner, the Rebel backstop is sixth in the country in RBI with 33. He is one of four Rebels over .300 and leads the team with his .459 average, 10 doubles, 3 home runs and .706 slugging percentage. Austin Anderson leads the nation in strikeouts per at-bats with just 1 for every 47.5. Bianco is still waiting on two of his biggest stars from last year to step up in Tanner Mathis and Will Allen. After batting over .350 in 2012, Mathis has struggled out of the gates with just a .250 average this season with a long extra-base hit. Allen batted cleanup for the majority of last season and is last among starters with a .247 average. The power-hitting first baseman has just 1 home run and 9 RBI in 93 at-bats.
The Red Wolves are 4-3 in midweek games this season. Strangely, head coach Tommy Raffo’s team has not won two midweek games in a row. After opening the midweek slate with a win at Memphis, they have alternated losses and wins to date and for the record, ASU won last Wednesday in Columbia. First pitch is set for 6:30 on Wednesday night at Oxford-University Stadium.