By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – The Ole Miss Rebels will have a brief stop at home tonight before heading back on the Southeastern Conference road this weekend at Georgia.
A change of venue might do well for the Rebels. The Ole Miss pitching staff gave up 30 runs in three games as the Rebels were swept in their SEC series at Alabama over the weekend.
Tonight's assignment is not an easy one. First pitch against No. 24 Southern Mississippi is 6:30 p.m. at Swayze Field.
It is the Rebels' (13-11, 1-5 SEC) only midweek contest.
The Golden Eagles (20-6) were 4-1 last week, including a sweep of Alabama-Birmingham on the opening weekend of Conference USA play.
USM shortstop Brian Dozier, a Daily Journal All-Area player at Itawamba AHS last season, was 11-for-18 for the week with a pair of triples and six RBIs.
The game is the first of two between Ole Miss and Southern Miss. The second is set for April 4 at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
USM competed in last season's Oxford Regional but did not meet the Rebels in the postseason.
This figured to be a transitional season for the Rebels, who had six underclassmen drafted in the first seven rounds last June. But the level of struggle has been more than head coach Mike Bianco expected.
Ole Miss is 4-7 in its last 11 games.
“We did not expect to be 13-11 and 1-5 in the SEC,” he said. “This was not something we forecast, nor did anybody else. We were ranked in every national poll. We knew it was not going to be easy, but we've not played very good baseball to this point.”
Redshirt freshman Brett Bukvich, the regular mid-week starting pitcher, will assume that role tonight against Southern Miss. He gave up no earned runs in six innings to earn his third straight victory last week at Memphis.
The weekend was more cruel. Bukvich gave up four hits and three earned runs in 1 1/3 innings in Saturday's 9-8 10-inning loss.
Bianco has not settled on a rotation for the Georgia series, he said. The Rebels went with three newcomers – freshman Cody Satterwhite, junior college transfer Garrett White and freshman Lance Lynn – at Alabama.
The pitching bright spot against the Crimson Tide was the right-hander Lynn, who tossed 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball and left Sunday's game leading 2-1 in the sixth.
But Alabama rallied against the Rebels' bullpen with four runs in the seventh and four more in the eighth in the 9-2 victory.
The Rebels scored more than two runs in only one game, that being Saturday.
Satterwhite, in his first Friday night start, struggled with control. He lasted one inning, and the Rebels dropped the series opener 12-2.
“We're a better team than the way we're playing, although that's not real visible right now,” Bianco said. “I don't think any game is a must-win, but you certainly hope that the next game is the one that begins to turn things around. All we can do is continue to work and try to make changes, to correct things in practice and in meetings and try to get better.”