By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The names in the box score will be a little different, but the name across the jerseys remains he same.
Ole Miss and Texas A&M met in College Station in an NCAA regional last June. This weekend the Aggies, with some key players missing from last year’s team, faces the Rebels in Oxford, the first home SEC weekend for Ole Miss.
Game times are tonight at 6:30, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Texas A&M is only 15-7 overall but opened conference play with a home sweep of Georgia.
Neither Ole Miss (20-2, 2-1 SEC) nor A&M played non-conference competition during the week.
The series will feature the top two hitters in the SEC in Ole Miss catcher Stuart Turner (.474) and Texas A&M’s Mikey Reynolds (.458).
Reynolds was a starter in the regional. Many of his teammates were not.
“Yeah, but this is a program that was in the World Series just a couple of years ago. They do a terrific job,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
Pitching, particularly from the bullpen, has been a big part of the fast start as Ole Miss has climbed to No. 6 in the rankings.
It could get stronger as sophomores Chris Ellis and Hawtin Buchanan and freshman Jacob Waguespack continue the road back from injury.
Ellis pitched in the TCU series with an abdominal injury that hasn’t fully healed. Buchanan and Waguespack are battling tendinitis.
Buchanan could pitch next week. Waguespack is a little behind him.
Ellis could possibly pitch a little this weekend.
In his absence sophomore Sam Smith has compiled a 2-0 record with a 2.49 earned run average in 21.2 innings.
Like Texas A&M, Ole Miss is without key producers from the last meeting.
The season began with questions of how the Rebels would improve their run production missing a .380 hitter in Alex Yarbrough and their top home-run hitters in Matt Snyder and Zach Kirksey.
While long balls are fewer Turner has helped fill that void, and others are hitting better after a slow start.
The Rebels are fourth in the league in hitting at .299 and in runs scored at 144.
“We’ve had stints where a number of guys haven’t swung it as well, but some other guys have swung it better. We’ve been able to hit-and-run, to bunt at certain times,” Bianco said. “The biggest thing is we’ve been terrific with runners in scoring position, especially the big two-out hits.”