By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Midweek wins over a state rival and a mid-major who struck fast helped facilitate healing, but nothing will help Ole Miss get over a series loss at Mississippi State more than winning at home this weekend.
The biggest triumphs for the No. 24-ranked Rebels have come at Swayze Field this season, series wins against Florida, ranked No. 1 at the time, and Arkansas.
This time No. 4 LSU visits. First pitch tonight is 6:30, and remaining game times are Saturday at 2 and Sunday at 1:30.
LSU (35-10, 14-7) has a three-game lead in the Western Division. Ole Miss (30-16) is one of three teams tied at 10-11, a game behind Arkansas at 11-0.
LSU outfielder Raph Rhymes leads the SEC in hitting at .503.
Ole Miss was more efficient with its offense in wins over Southern Mississippi (3-0) and Murray State (11-5) this week. The Rebels scored their three on seven hits against the Golden Eagles. They overcome a first-inning 4-0 deficit against Murray with a nine-run fourth.
The wins helped put a little distance between a missed opportunity in Starkville when the Rebels’ out-hit MSU 8-2 but lost 4-2 after walks and hit batters fueled a first inning in which the Bulldogs scored four times on only one hit.
“To beat a rival like Southern Miss, to get a shutout down there. Then last night, it was good to have a game like that where we got punched in the mouth a little bit down by four runs. To come back like that and put up 11 runs after giving up four was a great way for us to win,” second baseman Alex Yarbrough said.
While the move of R.J. Hively to the bullpen has paid off with two-straight Game 2 wins, the last two Sunday starters have failed to reach the second inning.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, who turned 45 on Thursday, lists TBA for his Sunday starter.
After losing in the decisive third game at MSU, Bianco said he needed to see more production from his offense. The Rebels’ bullpen pitched seven scoreless innings after the first.
“We need to be a little more aggressive when we have runners in scoring position. We were kind of swinging at pitches out of the zone, and we weren’t swinging at the pitches we needed to swing at,” Ole Miss first baseman Matt Snyder said.
The Rebels are hitting .291 in conference play, .269 with runners on base.
“When you have a game like Sunday when they scored four in the first, sometimes you’ll put a little too much pressure on yourself to try and score runs,” Snyder said. “We have to be more mature in our at-bats and in knowing what we’re doing.”
On the Hill
TONIGHT: Ole Miss RHP Bobby Wahl (5-1, 2.09) vs. LSU RHP Kevin Gausman (7-1, 3.12)
SATURDAY: Ole Miss RHP Mike Mayers (4-2, 3.69) vs. LSU RHP Ryan Eades (5-2, 3.29)
SUNDAY: Ole Miss TBA vs. LSU RHP Aaron Nola (5-2, 3.90)