By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Coming off a sweep of Houston in which it outscored the visitors 28-3, Ole Miss faces a quick turnaround for an unusual mid-week series.
The Rebels are on the road today at 5 p.m., and Wednesday at 11 a.m., against Louisville, coached by Dan McDonnell, a former assistant to Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco.
Three wins against Houston have the Rebels on a six-game win streak and helped them jump two spots to No. 12 in this week’s release of the Baseball America Top 25.
“We played really well in all three phases, especially offensively, scoring a lot of runs, but against a team in Houston that we really felt would be our biggest challenge, because they have three really quality starters,” Bianco said. “We jumped out of the gates all three games were able to put some runs on the board, and then we pitched really well and played good defense. It was a really good weekend by us.”
Ole Miss (13-2) will start freshman pitchers Sam Smith (1-0, 3.21) today and Josh Laxer (2-0, 2.16) on Wednesday.
Louisville (10-5) dropped out of the Baseball America rankings after a pair of losses, one to Alabama 7-6, the other to East Carolina 9-4. Both games were in Tuscaloosa. Louisville was ranked No. 24 last week.
The Cardinals are hitting .318 and pitching with a 3.45 earned run average.
Louisville has three players hitting .349 or better, led by second baseman Nick Ratajczak, a junior college transfer, hitting .362.
Stewart Ljames, a senior outfielder, is hitting .352 with a team-high 13 RBIs.
‘Huge for RPI’
Ole Miss begins the week with an RPI ranking of 24, Louisville at 74.
Bianco believes the Cardinals will be in the NCAA postseason when the dust settles, and success at Louisville could have long-term benefits for the Rebels’ NCAA tournament resume.
“It’s going to be huge for RPI, but we have to make sure we stay with our plan, playing pitch to pitch, inning to inning, out to out, game by game. We can’t make it bigger than it really is,” Bianco said. “Louisville obviously is a top 25 team, a team that will be in postseason, so on the road against a very good team, a team that will have a good record, it’s going to help us RPI-wise.”