#7 Ole Miss baseball defeated #10 seed Georgia on day one of the SEC Tournament. On day two they get a chance for revenge over #2 seed South Carolina. Here is how they can beat the Gamecocks tomorrow.
South Carolina started the season 17-2 in non-conference play, with the only two losses coming to in-state rival Clemson. Conference play also proved to be just as easy as easy for the Gamecocks, who swept Arkansas and Ole Miss to start SEC play.
This Gamecock squad does everything well. They hit and they pitch at an elite level. All three of their starters hold an ERA under 3.64. Led by leadoff hitter and 1st Team All-SEC OF Gene Cone, this Gamecock offense is deadly as well. Cone is one of six starters hitting over .300. The team as a whole hits .290. So how do the Rebels compete with that?
Earlier this season when these teams met South Carolina made a statement and swept the Rebels without a doubt. The Gamecocks defeated Ole Miss by 4 runs in all three games. So Ole Miss doesn’t have a chance, right?
Can the Rebel offense stay hot after a win over Georgia?
In the first game, the Rebels hit Georgia pitcher Heath Holder pretty well in the 4th inning, after suffering through 3 innings with absolutely no production. The scoring started in the 1st inning for Georgia, on a Stephen Wrenn home run to left field off of Brady Bramlett. This was a worry that I had when Bramlett was announced as the starter, and something I warned fans to watch for.
For the Rebels the 4th inning started with Will Golsan and Tate Blackman getting on base in front of J.B. Woodman. Woodman hit a triple to the wall that scored Golsan and Blackman. Henri Lartique was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and third. Colby Bortles then extended the lead with a double to left field that rolled to the wall.
Georgia pulled Holder in the 4th with two outs and brought in Kevin Smith, who owns a 8.31 earned run average in SEC play. The 4th inning was extended with two outs when Bulldog short stop Nick King bobbled a routine ground ball off the bat of Kyle Watson. Errol Robinson grounded out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
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The Rebels trotted out reliever Brady Fiegl out in the top of the 5th inning after Bramlett sat on the bench for the long 4th inning, potentially saving Bramlett for regional play. Fiegl worked quickly and started the 5th with two ground outs to Golsan at 1st. After allowing a single, he quickly strikes out the final batter and ends the inning on 15 pitches.
The scoring continued in the 5th inning thanks to Woodman again. After Golsan reached second, Woodman sprayed a fly ball to the left-center gap and reaches second. Georgia replaced Smith with left-hander Bo Tucker in the 5th with one out and men on 1st and 2nd. Tucker has a 3.99 ERA this season, but gets the Bulldogs out of the inning without allowing a run himself.
Fiegl returned for the 6th inning and took care of the lineup in order, striking out the 2nd and 3rd batters in the inning. Bo Tucker returned for the 6th inning for the Bulldogs and takes down the Rebels in order to end the 6th.
The scoring ended after the 5th inning, and the combination of Fiegl, Stokes, and Short only allowed 4 hits in 5 innings. If the Rebels can continue this type of play, they have a chance to beat the Gamecocks.
Keys to victory
Ole Miss must stop the hot bats of South Carolina. As I mentioned earlier, this Gamecock squad is one of the better teams in the nation at the plate. Not only can leadoff man Gene Cone cause damage, Dom Thompson-Williams, Alex Destino, Marcus Mooney and TJ Hopkins are all hitting over .300. This team doesn’t hit too many home runs, though, with just 38 as a team this season, led by Destino who has 8.
The second key to victory is to get to starter, Clarke Schmidt, early. Schmidt is one of the best pitchers in the country. In 14 starts this season his record is 9-2 with a 2.72 ERA. Schmidt is most likely who the Rebels will face on Wednesday.
Schmidt has vastly improved the velocity on his fastball this season, working it up from 88-89 MPH last season to a consistent low 90’s pitch. Additionally, he is 16th in the nation in strikeouts with 108. The sophomore made the 2nd team All-SEC squad this year as a reward for his outstanding season.
Third key, who do the Rebels start? David Parkinson would be my choice to start against South Carolina. Chad Smith and Andy Pagnozzi have already faced the Gamecocks this season and it wasn’t pretty. Parkinson has been the second starter for the last leg of the season, after Smith lost the role when he struggled early in SEC play.
Parkinson did face the Gamecocks in the first game of the series this season in relief of Bramlett. The Gamecocks roughed Parkinson up for five hits and one earned run in 4.1 innings. If the Rebels can get four or five solid innings from the starter tomorrow, then let the bullpen take over, this game should be a close one.
What is at stake
For Ole Miss, winning this game would advance them to the third round where they will face Texas A&M or Vanderbilt. With a win over South Carolina, the Rebels could work their way back up into the national seed discussion . In the latest projections from D1Baseball.com, the Gamecocks are currently the #7 national seed.
Georgia was an elimination game for the Rebels, but now that they have advanced to the second round, it is double elimination. That means even with a loss to South Carolina, the Rebels get another chance to advance.
One stat that might excite Rebel fans is the fact that
South Carolina has not won an SEC tournament game since 2012
South Carolina has not won an SEC tournament game since 2012, a streak the Rebels hope to continue.
How to witness the second round
All of the second round games are being broadcast on SEC Network, and the Rebels play 30 minutes after the first game ends. The Rebels and Gamecocks will meet in the second game of the day, tentatively scheduled for 1 PM central time.