Rebels, Bulldogs hit the SEC road

BY PARRISH ALFORD

Daily Journal

The Ole Miss Rebels go for their fourth straight Southeastern Conference win tonight against Vanderbilt, but they'll do it without their No. 1 starter for the second straight week.

Sophomore Alan Horne did not pitch in the Rebels' sweep of Kentucky last week and will miss his start again.

Mississippi State takes to the SEC road for the first time as well, facing Arkansas. The Bulldogs won two of three against Vanderbilt in Starkville.

The Rebels and Alabama are the only perfect teams in the SEC after the first weekend.

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt

The Rebels are off to the best SEC start since 1972, albeit without Horne.

Horne, 3-2 with a 3.86 earned run average in 25 2/3 innings, is on a 10-day throwing program and is expected to be ready for the Mississippi State series next weekend in Starkville.

“This early in the season and not knowing the weather, we felt it was better for him not to pitch than to try and rush it,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.

The Rebels (13-6, 3-0) played no midweek games.

Ole Miss has gotten off to a slower offensive start than Bianco would have thought based on what the team showed in fall practice.

Ole Miss is hitting .295 as a team, and the leaders aren't the usual suspects. Catcher Charlie Waite tops the list at .386, while freshmen Brian Pettway and Stephen Head are at .375 and .370 respectively.

Outfielder Seth Smith, who hit .402 last season, has come on of late. He's hitting .327 after going 6-for-12 against Kentucky.

Former Clemson assistant Tim Corbin is in his first season as head coach of the Commodores (12-8, 1-2).

Vanderbilt is coming off a 5-2 win against Lipscomb Wednesday.

The Commodores are hitting only .253 as a team, but they have an ERA of 2.81. Talented sophomore left-hander Jeremy Sowers (0-2, 2.97), a former first-round draft pick, has already thrown 39 1/3 innings. He will start Saturday opposite Ole Miss' T.J. Beam.

MSU at Arkansas

The Razorbacks (18-2, 2-1) have started quickly under first-year coach Dave Van Horn, who has had successful NCAA tournament teams at Nebraska most recently.

Arkansas delivered Van Horn a win in his first SEC series, dropping South Carolina twice in Columbia.

At No. 22, Arkansas will be the first top 25 opponent for the ninth-ranked Bulldogs this season.

Junior outfielder Andrew Wishy is hitting .373 for the Razorbacks and has team-highs of 12 doubles and 22 RBIs.

State split a pair of midweek games with Memphis at AutoZone Park. The Tigers rallied to win 8-7 in 10 innings Wednesday.

“We need more timely hitting,” MSU coach Ron Polk said. “I know every coach says that. We need to close games down too. I feel good about our relievers, but in two of our three losses we've squandered a lead.”

One of those losses was Saturday against Vanderbilt when the Bulldogs gave up an RBI double in the ninth and lost 4-3. Robby Goodson began the inning by hitting the first two batters he faced.

Matthew Maniscalco and Brent Lewis lead the Bulldogs offensively hitting .419 and .412 respectively.

“We're still young,” Polk said. “We have 13-14 people pitching and playing who were not with us last year. We have to be patient. Every weekend will be a test.”