By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Ole Miss and Auburn get an early jump on the start to the second half of the SEC season tonight.
Their three-game SEC series begins at 6:30 p.m., at the Tigers’ Plainsman Park. Game 1 will be televised on ESPNU.
Remaining game times are 6 p.m., Friday and noon Saturday. Game 3 will be televised by CSS.
Both teams are coming off series victories. Auburn took two games at LSU last weekend, while Ole Miss swept Kentucky in Oxford.
The Rebels (23-15, 8-7 SEC) find themselves tied with Alabama and Arkansas for the lead in the Western Division, a game up on Auburn (20-16, 7-8).
Five of Ole Miss’ eight wins have come against Tennessee and Kentucky, which are a combined 6-24 in the SEC.
Top-five ranked Eastern Division opponents Florida and South Carolina, as well as Arkansas, are among the Rebels’ remaining series, but that doesn’t cause Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco to place a different emphasis on this series with Auburn.
“Any coach would tell you it’s three games of 30, they’re all important, and they all mean the same at the end of the day,” Bianco said. “It doesn’t matter how you cut them up, they all mean the same and are worth the same winning or losing them. I don’t think our approach will be any different.”
Ole Miss went through a stretch where it had lost eight of 11 games before the Kentucky series.
Once at the top of the SEC, the Rebels have slid to ninth in the league’s fielding statistics with a .969 percentage.
They have committed nine errors in their last four games, three of them Tuesday night that contributed to a 6-1 loss to rival Mississippi State in the Governor’s Cup, a game that does not count in the SEC standings.
“We kind of have lulls in the game. You can say focus, but I really don’t know what it is,” senior outfielder/first baseman Matt Smith said. “It seems like we get the bad hop, or we play it back and can’t get the out. It’s one of those things where we have to be aggressive and attack.”
One of the three teams with a lower fielding percentage than Ole Miss is Auburn, which ranks last with a .964 percentage.
Auburn is hitting .302 as a team, third in the league, but has struggled on the mound with a 4.90 ERA, last in the league.
After an 8-7 win on Friday at LSU, Auburn held the Tigers to one run a 3-1 win on Saturday and three runs in a 3-2 loss on Sunday.
Smith says Kentucky’s record shouldn’t diminish the meaning of last weekend for the Rebels.
“It’s definitely a confidence boost. I don’t care who you play in the SEC. A sweep’s a sweep. Those are good wins for us,” he said.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.