With nine games left in the regular season Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco wants to make sure his team is watching the right games.
Five SEC teams are within one game of the overall lead as they come down the stretch. Keeping an eye on the other guys may be the quickest way to fall off the pace.
“We can’t get caught up in what all the other teams are doing. We have to get caught up in ourselves,” Bianco said. “Anything can happen, but with nine games left you hope you have a shot.”
No. 7 Ole Miss (33-13, 13-8 SEC) will play six of its last nine on the road beginning this weekend with three games at Auburn.
Game times are 6 p.m. tonight and Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Georgia and LSU are tied for the overall lead at 14-7 inside the SEC. Next is Arkansas at 13-7, followed by Ole Miss and Florida at 13-8.
Auburn (27-19, 8-13 SEC) isn’t part of the league championship conversation, but when talk turns to home runs the Tigers more than hold their own.
Through last Sunday’s games Auburn was tied for second in the nation with 92 home runs. That total has grown to 97.
The Tigers, however, could be without their leading hitter. Infielder Joseph Sanders leads the team in average (.329), doubles (14), home runs (18) and RBI (54).
He missed last weekend’s series at LSU after April 24 surgery to repair a broken jaw. Sanders did not play this week, and his status for the weekend is unknown.
Without Sanders, Auburn was swept at LSU but lost the Saturday and Sunday games both by one run, 7-6.
Offense wasn’t lacking in the mid-week with two wins against Troy, 26-6 and 13-8.
“When you lose an All-SEC player, our team was shaken by that,” Auburn coach John Powlowski said. “The games this week were very important for our team and important for our confidence going into this weekend.”
While the power numbers are impressive others have not been. The Tigers .271 team batting average against SEC teams ranks No. 11, while the team earned run average of 7.47 within the SEC is last.
Powlowski likes what he’s been able to get from his starters, but depth has been lacking.
“Consistency has hurt us, especially with our middle and long relief,” he said.
Ole Miss has won SEC series against Alabama and Georgia, which rank fifth and sixth in the nation in home runs. Both of those series were at home.
Ole Miss pitchers have allowed 32 home runs, fewest in the league.
Bianco likes his chances at the finish if that holds true.
“This is my ninth year, and I don’t remember a year when it wasn’t close like this,” he said. “The difference this time of year is you can see the finish line. It’s still far away, but you can see it.”
Ole Miss LHP Drew Pomeranz (4-2, 3.49) vs. Auburn RHP Jon Luke Jacobs (3-3, 5.75)
Ole Miss RHP Phillip Irwin (5-3, 4.01) vs. Auburn LHP Grant Dayton (2-4, 5.06)
Ole Miss RHP Scott Bittle (5-2, 2.17) vs. Auburn RHP Dexter Price (3-1, 5.40)