Rebels visit nation’s No. 1

OleMissLogoBy Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

With 16 wins in its first 18 games, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco thinks his team is ready for SEC play.

The Rebels, though, start their league schedule with a bang – a road trip to No. 1 South Carolina (16-0).

First pitch is at 6 p.m.

As a function of SEC scheduling, the Rebels haven’t played South Carolina since 2011. The Gamecocks were No. 1 then, too, and Ole Miss won the last two games to take the series in Oxford.

No. 21 Ole Miss is coming off a two-game sweep at Southeastern Louisiana which, to Bianco, provided a capsule look at what the Rebels may need most this weekend – pitching.

Ole Miss allowed four runs in the two games down in Hammond, La., winning 2-1 on Tuesday and 8-3 on Wednesday.

Weekend starters Chris Ellis, Christian Trent and Sam Smith have been consistent, the blip on the radar being a Trent’s outing last Saturday. The junior college transfer went 42⁄3 innings and allowed five earned runs, his shortest outing of the year.

“We’ve played well, and we’ve had success in all three phases,” Bianco said. “Our three starters have done well, and everybody has done well. We really relied on our pitching he last two games, guys that have not had a ton of innings.”

South Carolina has played well offensively, but the Gamecocks’ pitching has gotten a lot of attention in their unbeaten start.

South Carolina is batting .316 as a team, third in the league behind the Rebels’ .323. The Gamecocks lead the SEC in pitching with a 1.12 team ERA.

Well-armed rivals

The Rebels, at 1.93, are among six SEC staffs with an ERA of less than 2.

Ellis and LSU’s Aaron Nola are the only SEC pitchers who throw at least an inning a game that have yet to allow an earned run.

The Gamecocks can start three pitchers with sub-2 ERAs, beginning with lefty Jordan Montgomery.

“We’ve gotten off to a good start, and we’ve really been tested,” Bianco said. “We’ve been in close games, extra-inning games, and while we’ve not always played particularly well in those games, we’ve played our best baseball when it’s meant the most.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com

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PROBABLE ROTATION

Tonight (6 p.m.): Ole Miss RHP Chris Ellis (2-0, 0.00) vs. South Carolina LHP Jordan Montgomery (3-0,1.99)

Saturday (3 p.m.): Ole Miss LHP Christian Trent (2-0,3.96) vs. South Carolina LHP Jack Wynkoop (4-0,1.37)

Sunday (12:30 p.m.): Ole Miss RHP Sam Smith (3- 0,1.61). vs. South Carolina RHP Wil Crowe (3-0, 0.99)