By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Ole Miss has won 18 of 19 baseball games to start the season. Now the real journey begins.
The No. 6-ranked Rebels (18-1) open SEC play tonight at 6:35 at No. 15 Ark-ansas with hopes that an improved offense will continue to shine.
Game 2 begins Saturday at 2:05, Game 3 Sunday at 1:05.
After a slow start Ole Miss is hitting a collective .310. The Rebels put up 18 runs in two wins against Louisiana-Monroe this week improved to 5-0 on the road in the process.
Arkansas (13-5) has lost just once at home. Its other four losses have been at a neutral site.
There were questions at the beginning of the season as to what offense might look like for Ole Miss, which lost a .380 hitter and Alex Yarbrough, and long-ball threats Matt Snyder and Zach Kirksey who combined for 25 home runs.
“They were the core of our team, but we’ve got guys who can fill their spots,” senior third baseman Andrew Mistone said. “Our home runs might be down, but I think our run production is better than it was.”
Home runs are down from 0.58 per game to 0.31, while doubles are up from 1.69 to 1.78.
The Rebels are averaging 6.8 runs right now, up slightly over the last two weeks.
Mistone is one of the reasons for the improvement.
His current .328 batting average is up 85 points over his .243 average of last year, his first year in the program.
credit to coaching
He credits hitting coach Cliff Godwin for helping him become more patient at the plate and use more of the field.
“He’s been working with me to use the right-center gap. That gives me a lot more time to see the ball travel, to recognize off-speed pitches and use the opposite field instead of just reacting,” Mistone said. “Last year I didn’t have a plan at the plate like I should have. I reacted to whatever pitch they gave me instead of waiting for my pitch and taking advantage.”
The surging Ole Miss offense will face a stiff challenge this weekend. Opponents are hitting just .191 against the Arkansas staff.
The Razorbacks will start with freshman right-hander Trey Killian, who has given up just two earned runs in 21 innings and will throw veteran right-hander Ryne Stanek in Sunday’s finale.
“It’s the first SEC weekend. The juices will be flowing,” Mistone said. “We’re going to their place. We’ve got to throw the first punch and get them against the ropes.”