By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
Ole Miss batters will try to get off good swings early in the count with hopes of making a late push for SEC overall and Western Division titles as the season winds down.
With six games left, No. 15 Ole Miss begins its series at Alabama two games behind overall leader South Carolina, one game behind West leader Arkansas.
Those two teams square off this weekend in Fayetteville.
The Rebels (35-15, 15-9 SEC) scored just seven runs and had 18 hits three games against Arkansas last weekend, their lone win in the series a 3-2 outing behind Saturday starter Aaron Barrett.
Game times at the Crimson Tide’s (29-20, 10-14 SEC) Sewell-Thomas Stadium are 6:35 tonight, 3:05 p.m. Saturday and 2:05 p.m. Sunday. Saturday’s game will be televised by Fox Sports South.
The Rebels managed just two hits in a 7-0 shutout loss against Arkansas starter Mike Bolsinger last Sunday. The third starter was listed TBA on Thursday, and Bolsinger didn’t find out it was him until late Saturday night.
“We should never get just two hits,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
That in fact is what happened, however, because the Rebels weren’t able to drop Bolsinger’s fastballs between the foul lines. Some players connected but not for basehits. Some players, outfielder Matt Smith says, just missed.
“There were plenty of fastballs he threw in hitters’ counts, and we’d foul them off. That left the slider open for him to play around with. He didn’t have to always throw it for a strike,” Smith said. “He had pitches to play with in certain counts. He did a good job, but we did miss the fastball in hitters’ counts more than we had been in previous games.”
Arkansas began the Ole Miss series with the SEC’s No. 3-rated pitching staff. The Rebels were much more successful against SEC staffs with lesser numbers the two weeks prior against LSU and Mississippi State.
Alabama’s 5.32 team earned run average ranks seventh in the SEC. The Tide has lost four of its las five SEC series, the break in that span being a sweep of MSU two weeks ago.
Against Florida last week, each Alabama starter allowed at least six earned runs. Lefty Adam Morgan, tonight’s starter, lasted only 4 1-3 innings. Teammate Jimmy Nelson, a right-hander, went 4 innings on Saturday.
Alabama won Sunday’s game 10-8 behind former closer Nathan Kilcrease, went 6 1-3 innings in his first start.
The Rebels had eight hits in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Arkansas State. The Crimson Tide lost its mid-week game 8-7 at Samford.
Whoever is on the mound for Alabama, the approach will remain the same for Ole Miss.
“We have to be aggressive with the fastball, lay off the breaking balls, and make him throw fastball in the strike zone,” Bianco said.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600
Ole Miss @ Alabama
Tonight: 6:35 p.m.
Saturday: 3:05 p.m.
Sunday: 2:05 p.m. (Fox Sports South)
– Tonight: Ole Miss LHP Drew Pomeranz (6-1, 2.17) vs. Alabama LHP Adam Morgan (5-3, 6.23)
– Saturday: Ole Miss RHP Aaron Barrett (7-2, 3.44) vs. Alabama RHP Jimmy Nelson (5-2, 4.59)
– Sunday: Ole Miss RHP David Goforth (1-3, 8.06) vs. Alabama RHP Nathan Kilcrease (4-2, 2.56)