By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco thinks his team plays well on the road.
That’s a good thing, because the road is where No. 15 Ole Miss must go to snap a three-game losing streak and is where it will be for the next two SEC weekends.
The Rebels dropped two league games and a series to struggling Tennessee at home last weekend.
Tonight they play the first of three games against a Georgia team that has also gotten off to a slow start.
First pitch is 8 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPNU. First pitch times are also 3 p.m., Saturday and 1 p.m., Sunday.
Georgia (10-17, 2-7 SEC) dropped six of its first seven SEC games but very nearly won twice at No. 5 LSU last week, losing 4-3 on Friday and winning 12-6 on Saturday. The Eastern Division Bulldogs are hitting .292, ninth in the SEC, and pitching with a 8.62 ERA, last in the league.
Ole Miss (21-9, 5-4 SEC) followed its Saturday-Sunday losses to Tennessee with a 9-6 loss to Arkansas-Little Rock Wednesday night.
The Rebels are at No. 11 South Carolina next weekend. Ole Miss has won its only two road series of the season, at Tulane and at Kentucky on the opening weekend of SEC play.
“Every game is a big game. We have to make sure we stick with the process and play our style of baseball,” Ole Miss utility player Matt Smith said. “If we do that we’ll be fine.”
En route to a 20-10 SEC mark and a share of the overall conference championship last season, the Rebels were better on the road, just 9-6 at Swayze Field but 11-4 out of town.
Bianco doesn’t think location puts any greater significance on winning now for the Rebels, who begin the weekend tied for third in the West with Auburn, a game behind Arkansas and two games behind LSU.
“If you start looking at areas on the schedule and say, ‘This is where you have to win,’ I don’t believe in that,” he said. “Some people look at a time and say, ‘Is this the turning point?’ That’s a question you answer in June.”
The bigger question for Ole Miss right now is pitching. Through attrition or injury the Rebels lost five of their top six arms from a team that had the SEC’s second-best pitching staff with a 4.04 ERA.
Drew Pomeranz and Aaron Barrett, the top two starters, have racked up 11 wins, but the Sunday position has been problematic, and so has the relief. The Rebels’ currently had a 3.89 ERA, fifth in the league, a standing achieved largely on the work of Pomeranz (1.65) and Barrett (2.22). Four of the Rebels’ next five pitches in terms of innings have ERAs of 4.33 or higher.
“We have to be more aggressive in the strike zone, and we have to attack the zone more,” Bianco said. “Everybody is successful when they’re ahead in the count, when you’re not having success, the No. 1 culprit seems to be falling behind in counts, walking people and giving up free baserunners.”
Tonight: Ole Miss LHP Drew Pomeranz (5-0, 1.65) vs. Georgia RHP Justin Grimm (2-3, 4.46)
Saturday: Ole Miss RHP Aaron Barrett (6-1, 2.22) vs. Georgia RHP Jeff Walters (1-2, 8.62)
Sunday: Ole Miss TBA vs. Georgia RHP Michael Palazzone (3-3, 8.24)