OXFORD – Ole Miss players know the opportunity they have in front of them and were reminded Wednesday night how sharp they have to be to beat good teams.
SEC play returns to Swayze Field tonight at 6:30 as the Razorbacks visit for the first of three games.
No. 11 Ole Miss dropped to 33-13 Wednesday night with a 7-6 loss to Southern Mississippi, just days after an impressive weekend at Kentucky. Ole Miss scored 39 runs in Lexington, its most ever in a three-game SEC series.
“We know Southern Miss always comes out ready to play us. We didn’t overlook them,” catcher Will Allen said. “We just didn’t execute in situations that we should have.”
The loss put a little scuff mark on a shiny RPI ranking that peaked at No. 4 after the Kentucky series. Ole Miss – tied for the SEC West lead at 13-8 – goes into the weekend with a simulated RPI of 7, a significant factor in the quest to earn a national seed for the NCAA tournament. If the Rebels can do that they’ll be guaranteed of hosting the regional – and if they advance – the super regional rounds of the NCAA tournament.
“Yeah, I’ve heard a little bit about it. We try not to focus on that too much,” Allen said. “At the end of the day the more ballgames you win the better chance you’re going to have. We know that.”
Arkansas is 29-18, 10-11 and three games behind Ole Miss and Alabama in the West.
The Razorbacks are 12th in the league in hitting at .263 but second in pitching with a team ERA of 2.31.
Arkansas is 0-3 in SEC road series but has not been swept. The Razorbacks lost two of three to Auburn last week and won two of three against Vanderbilt the week before. Both of those series were at home.
Players say they the left Kentucky – where they recorded their first road sweep of a ranked opponent since winning three at Arkansas in 2009 – feeling good about themselves.
“It was a confidence boost,” said center fielder Auston Bousfield, who hit .714 in Lexington to earn SEC player of the week honors. “Our goals include hosting a regional and super regional. With our RPI where it is now it puts us in position. We’ve got to finish the rest of the season winning series.”
Tonight: Ole Miss RHP Chris Ellis (6-0, 1.81) vs. Arkansas RHP Trey Killian (2-7, 2.30)
Saturday: Ole Miss LHP Christian Trent (6-0, 2.25) vs. Arkansas LHP Jalen Beeks (5-3, 1.60)
Sunday: Ole Miss RHP Sam Smith (5-3, 2.78) vs. Arkansas RHP Chris Oliver (5-4, 3.05)