By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Having been swept at Alabama, Ole Miss must resist the temptation to make the Auburn series bigger than it is, players and coaches say.
The No. 23-ranked Rebels snapped a four-game losing streak with an 11-1 win against a SWAC opponent, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, on Wednesday.
Prior to that, they’d been on the short end of four winnable games. Ole Miss lost by two runs against Southern Miss then by one run twice and by two runs in the finale in Tuscaloosa.
The Rebels (22-8, 4-5 SEC) get back into conference play at home this weekend against Auburn (19-11, 5-4). Game times at Swayze Field are 6:30 tonight, 4 on Saturday and 1:30 on Sunday.
“We just have to go out there and play the game we’ve been playing. Winning will take care of itself,” freshman outfielder J.B. Woodman said.
Woodman will help that winning cause if he continues to crank balls over the right field wall like he did Wednesday.
It was the first home run for Woodman, who hit .575 as a high school senior in Orlando en route to being named the Florida’s Class 6A player of the year and second-team All-America by Baseball America.
“You can see the greatness in him. You can tell it’s only a matter of time before he’s a little more consistent,” Rebels coach Mike Bianco said.
Ole Miss held the lead at some point in each of the four losses.
The Rebels face a resurgent Auburn team that is in its first season under coach Sunny Golloway, who in nine seasons led Oklahoma to eight NCAA tournaments, four super regionals and one College World Series.
The Tigers, 13-17 in the league a year ago, are alone in second place in the SEC West, a game back of co-leaders Alabama and Mississippi State. Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M and LSU all have five conference losses.
Bianco said Ole Miss returned from a “tough week” focused and determined in workouts and in its mid-week game.
“We talked to them a little bit about where we are, what happened and how you’ve got to handle it. It happens to all teams. I don’t know if they even needed that,” Bianco said.
The Rebels lost twice at Auburn last year and have dropped two of their first three SEC series. There’s been no additional focus on this Auburn series from the coaching staff.
“You have to be careful when you say that. One of the things we’ve stressed always from Game 1 is that they all count the same. The thing you have to do is play the games, run to the finish and win as many as you can.”
Tonight: Ole Miss RHP Chris Ellis (4-0, 1.91) vs. Auburn RHP Dillon Ortman (5-2, 2.05)
Saturday: Ole Miss LHP ChristianTrent (3-0, 2.91) vs. Auburn RHP Keegan Thompson (5-0, 1.03)
Sunday: Ole Miss RHP Sam Smith (3-2,2.36) vs. Auburn LHP Michael O’Neal (2-2, 3.38)