By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – After dropping two of its first three SEC series, Ole Miss has responded with back-to-back series victories due in large part to relentless offense.
Since getting swept at Alabama in Week 3, the Rebels have won eight of their last nine.
As LSU visits later this week, Ole Miss is a game behind the SEC West-leading Crimson Tide and a half game ahead of LSU.
The Rebels punctuated a 4-1 week with a 2-1 series win at Mississippi State in which they knocked around MSU ace Ross Mitchell on Friday then proceeded to hit .362 for the weekend. Ole Miss had at least 13 hits in each game.
The Rebels haven’t been sitting idle once on base. They lead the SEC with 66 steals, six of them this past week from leadoff hitter Braxton Lee.
“Offensively we were really good this weekend,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “One of the things Keith (Kessinger, team broadcaster) was saying on the air, and it’s true … how well we run, and with Braxton really swinging it well.
“Remember, a couple of weeks ago he was hitting about .215. He got off to a great start, then fell into a slump.”
Ole Miss had a season-high 20 hits in Sunday’s 12-2 series clinching win. The Rebels begin the week second in the SEC in hitting with a .310 team average.
Lee’s improvement at the plate has had a positive impact throughout the lineup.
“It’s hard to quantify how that helps the other guys, because the other team has to really defend against the steal. That’s a big deal for us.”
Lee hit .500 for the week (12-for-24) and scored four runs.
There were plenty of offensive heroes in Starkville, including first baseman Sikes Orvis, whose two-run home run to the deepest part of Dudy Noble Field on Saturday seemingly propelled Ole Miss to a win in Game 2, and third baseman Austin Anderson, who hit .400 for the three games.
Anderson is fourth in the SEC in hitting at .356, while Orvis is second in home runs with eight.
Aggressive play in the wake of Saturday’s disappointing loss was the key to winning the series, Anderson said.
“It would have been easy to say, ‘Oh we should have won that game,’ everyone get down at the start, getting bitter around each other. It’s hard to forget about it, hard to flush it, but you have to. It’s the SEC. That kind of stuff happens. We could have come out flat and ended up losing the series. Instead we came out being aggressive, and we took the series.”