By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Tanner Mathis and his Ole Miss teammates fielded questions about run production on Monday, but it wasn’t the first time they’d been around that topic.
The Rebels were No. 2 in the SEC in batting average last year but No. 8 in scoring.
That cost them down the stretch when they lost six of their last seven and nine of their last 14.
The Rebels dropped to a No. 3 seed at College Station regional in their first trip back to the tournament after a year away.
No. 13 Ole Miss, 37-26 last season, opens the regular season at home Friday at 4 against No. 14 TCU, the team that eliminated it in the championship round in College Station.
The 2012 season was the first under Cliff Godwin as hitting coach. The Rebels’ batting average was up at .296 and strikeouts were down, but the goal of scoring more runs remains.
“Last year we wanted to be the No. 1 offense. This year it’s the No. 1 run-scoring offense,” Mathis said. “That’s what we talk about, how to do it, how to get better at it each and every week.”
That could be a challenge as Alex Yarbrough, along with Matt Snyder and Zach Kirksey, are gone. The trio hit 25 of the Rebels’ 37 home runs last year.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said he didn’t expect Mathis, his left fielder, be around for his senior year.
His presence gives Bianco a key piece to work with. He was one of the team’s best hitters at the end and finished with a .359 average, second to Yarbrough’s average of .380.
Bianco points to the development of underclassmen Will Allen, who moves from catcher to first base and DH, along with Sikes Orvis and Auston Bousfield and has confidence going into the season.
“Last year we did a lot of great things offensively, but we had trouble pushing runs across,” he said. “I think we’re going to score more runs. We lose a couple of boppers like Kirksey and Snyder, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we hit more home runs.”