No.5 Ole Miss baseball just met their first tough test and finished 4 out of 5 with 2 huge wins in the SEC opening weekend series against Tennessee.
After a mid-week sweep of a tough Georgia State team, Ole Miss baseball (19-2, 1-2) managed to take the weekend series over Tennessee. Both series got off to a tough start with Georgia State jumping on Ole Miss only to see the Rebels rally for the 5-3 win in game one and then take a blow out victory in game two with a score of 16-2. Not many teams have a 5th starter of the caliber of game 2 winner Jordan Fowler. Not to mention others who could be called on to fill that slot. The defense showed flashes of brilliance and the offense was strong and consistent. The Rebels are now in the top 10 in 4 polls including ranking in the top 8 in 3.
The Tennessee series started out tough with a hard-fought 8-6 Friday night loss. The Rebels came back with impressive pitching on Saturday and Sunday combined with solid hitting for victories of 7-1 and 5-0. These were maybe the most significant series so far this season. To sweep a tough Georgia State team on the road and follow it up by preserving the series against Tennessee after losing game-one was huge.
The Competition Gets Tougher
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Now the competition may get even tougher for the next couple of weeks. After a mid-week game against an 8-11 New Orleans team the weekend competition is a tough Texas A&M team on the road. Never mind the fact they lost 2 out of 3 to Auburn in Auburn. That probably says more about how tough Auburn is than anything questionable about Texas A&M. They managed to pull off a Sunday win. Surviving this week with a good start to SEC play and without taking a hit to the confidence they possess at this point.
Aggies Have High Competition Level
Texas A&M, at least before this weekend, is playing at a level above anyone Ole Miss has faced so far. Their pitching is especially tough with a team ERA of 2.24. Actually, their stats are comparable to Ole Miss stats and, of course, it is difficult to compare the competition. Ole Miss has been scoring runs at a slightly higher rate. The only common head to head foe is Long Beach State. Of course, they delivered the only non-conference loss to Ole Miss in Long Beach. Texas A&M swept the Dirtbags in College Station.
Aggies Have Aces
After going through some changes early in the season the pitching rotation has settled on 3 weekend starters. John Doxakis has recently taken over the weekend game 2 slot and holds an impressive ERA of 1.65. Doxakis started game 2 against Auburn and holds a 3-0 record. Junior right-hander Stephen Kolek has been stellar holding down the first game weekend slot and is 3-2 with an ERA of 1.50. Junior right-hander Mitchell Kilkenny holds down the 3rd weekend slot with an ERA of 1.32 and a 5-0 record.
Texas A&M Hitting is Solid
Hitting, much like the Rebels has been very solid. They have 6 every day starters hitting over .300. The group is led by Sophomore left fielder Logan Foster. He leads the team with 6 home runs and 26 RBIs. Center Fielder Zach DeLoach lead off and is tied with Foster for the team lead in extra base hits with 12. He has 5 triples on the season and leads the team in runs scored at 22.
Then there is the mid-week game with Southern Mississippi. They are 14-4 including a sweep of Mississippi State in the opening weekend. And of course, they would like nothing better than to come to Oxford and leave with a victory.
Arkansas May Be Best Team Right Now
Finally, the following week Arkansas comes into Oxford. They are coming off a truly impressive weekend sweep of another top 10 team, Kentucky. They are 16-4 overall and 3-0 in conference play. Of course, both pitching and hitting have been impressive.
The offense is led by 7 every day hitters who are batting better than .300 with slugging percentages of over .500. Leading at the plate is 3rd baseman Casey Martin. He leads the team with 22 RBIs and 7 Home Runs. He also hold an impressive .803 slugging percentage. He is closely followed by right-fielder Eric Cole who leads the team in runs, hits and extra base hits.
Of course, their weekend starters are also impressive. Particularly the 1st and 2nd day starters are impressive. Blaine Knight is 3-0 and carries an ERA of 1.3. Isaiah Campbell holds the 2nd weekend slot. Campbell holds an ERA of 1.73 and a 2-2 record. The team holds a 2.63 ERA while they are scoring close to 9 earned runs on their opponents. They are carrying a 6 game winning streak with 5 of those wins coming over Kentucky and Texas.
Series Could be Full of Fireworks
In general, the next 2 weeks may tell a lot about the prospects for this team. In particular, the weekend leading up to Easter with Arkansas coming to Swayze Field should offer some very interesting and fun baseball in Oxford. So far this has been an exciting season for Ole Miss and it will surely get better if the Rebels can hang onto momentum .
Of course, it is very easy to allow our hopes for postseason play to creep into the picture even with a lot of season left. However, this two-week stretch will show how the Rebels really stand. The road to Omaha won’t be easy and it gets even tougher this week. The Rebels will be back in action Tuesday morning from Swayze Field as they face New Orleans in a 11am CT first pitch.