By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Misery and company will collide in Tuscaloosa this weekend with the promise that relief will come for someone.
Ole Miss and Alabama have gotten off to a collective 1-5 start in SEC play, the Rebels falling twice to Alabama’s in-state rival, Auburn, while the Crimson Tide was swept at No. 3 Arkansas last weekend.
Someone will walk off the field with an SEC series victory Sunday after the Rebels and Tide complete three games at Alabama’s Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
First pitch tonight is 6:35 p.m., with remaining start times at 2:05 p.m., Saturday and 1:05 p.m., Sunday.
The root problem for both teams of late has been offense.
Alabama had just four hits in a 9-0 loss at Troy to fall to 8-13. The Crimson Tide has scored just 11 runs over its last four games and is on a four-game losing streak.
Alabama is hitting just .242 as a team.
The No. 17-ranked Rebels (15-6) have lost four of their last six and are hitting just .182 over their last four games, including a 10-0 loss Tuesday in Oxford against Southern Mississippi, described by Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco as a “total team disaster.”
The Rebels played the game without second baseman Alex Yarbrough, their leading hitter, who sat out with an injury to his non-throwing arm. He is expected to play this weekend.
“He’s arguably the best hitter, not only for us but maybe the Southeastern Conference,” Bianco said. “It’s a big blow, but that’s no excuse. You can’t fall off that much. There are other good players.”
Southern Miss coach Scott Berry was glad to be on the good side of a 10-0 score but shook his head in wonder at how his team arrived there, falling back on the sport’s most reliable post-game assessment: “That’s baseball,” Berry said.
His amazement stemmed in part from the Golden Eagles’ own inexperience and injuries in what has been an uninspiring start to the season by Southern Miss standards.
Berry watched the Ole Miss offense struggle and wonders when the Rebels might break out.
“Everybody goes through a little phase. They are very talented. I saw them play against Houston. They didn’t swing the bats as good as they wanted to this weekend. They have a very good club. They’re going to be right there where they’re supposed to be, I assure you,” he said.
The Rebels are hitting 22-for-121 and have scored just eight runs in their last four games.
Situational hitting has been especially problematic. Though Ole Miss had just three hits against Southern Miss, it had plenty of opportunities against Golden Eagles pitchers who walked five and hit four batters.
“We’ve missed opportunities in crucial situations. If you’re not going to situational hit, when you have guys on base with two outs, you better drive them in,” said assistant coach Cliff Godwin, who joined Bianco’s staff in the off-season to aid the hitting and offense. “We’ve got a perfect storm going for not scoring runs right now.”
As quickly as the Rebels fell into the slump they need to rise from it. The first SEC road trip is followed by a visit from No. 1 Florida next weekend.
Bianco says the Rebels have to be intentional in coming in from the rain.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to have better at-bats, hit more balls hard, get off more swings, be on time more with the fastball. We have to hit when we have opportunities with guys in scoring position,” he said.
“We have to be tougher.”