By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Most of the water has passed under the bridge this baseball season.
Teams know who they are, and so do their opponents.
Ole Miss has most often won with pitching and defense. That’s a bit problematic now, since the relief pitching has turned south.
When the Rebels take on No. 2 LSU beginning Thursday in Baton Rouge, they will need to bring their best shot to the plate.
Their batting average is neither terrible nor elite. In SEC games it is only .254, to rank 11th among the 14 teams, but a jumble of other teams are nearby in the stats. Hitting only 10 points better would put the Rebels in the top five in batting average against league competition.
Ultimately it’s about scoring runs, and the collective batting average is uninspiring enough that the Rebels’ runs scored – 122, seventh against league foes – is less than you would think when they rank fourth in on-base percentage.
Last Saturday, in winning twice against Mississippi State, Ole Miss was able to get the timely hits, less so in the later innings in Sunday’s loss.
The Rebels have not replaced the power that went out when Matt Snyder and Zach Kirksey left the program.
With games here and there from Auston Bousfield, Andrew Mistone, Austin Anderson and others, they’ve scored enough to win 14 SEC games and scored only enough to come close many others.
Some players – Tanner Mathis and Sikes Orvis come to mind – have seen their averages climb after slow starts.
Beyond Stuart Turner, there’s been no clear and consistent security threat to the opposing team.
Everyone would like a dynamic offense. The Ole Miss personality, however, is one you can work with as long as there’s strong pitching innings 1 through 9.
Too often of late, there hasn’t been.
So while the Rebels’ series win against MSU likely put them in the NCAA tournament, you never want to feel too comfortable about that. Filling out that field of 64 has a lot of moving parts, and every win helps.
Even if the Rebels are playing at LSU for seeding and location – you don’t want to get sent West for a four-team regional – those are important elements for a deep postseason run.
If the bullpen continues along its unfortunate path, Ole Miss must turn to another source for the winning edge.
There’s not much more the Rebels can get from three effective starters, so the arrow points to the offense.
The Rebels can significantly strengthen their resume if hitters can find their stroke against an LSU staff that will intentionally sit ace Aaron Nola.
The Tigers believe they have done all they can do in the regular season and can rest Nola.
The Rebels can do more.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford @journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.