This year, offensive numbers are up, but the Rebels are sliding again.
The lock-down Friday night starter is a great advantage in setting the tone for an SEC weekend. Ole Miss had that in 2010 with Drew Pomeranz. When he was on the mound the Rebels were in the game. In the end, Pomeranz was only 5-2 against the SEC, but he had a 2.70 earned run average, an opponent's batting average of .182 and struck out 87 batters in 631/3 conference innings.
Ole Miss hasn't been quite so feared on SEC Friday nights this season.
A junior left-hander, Matt Crouse was outstanding in non-conference play but hasn't been able to transition successfully to the SEC where he's 2-4 with a 4.47 ERA in nine starts.
"Recently, I haven't been able to make pitches with two strikes and two outs and really put them away," he said last week. "The teams have been getting better, but I think it's more me than anything else, not executing pitches when I need to."
Crouse said coaches Mike Bianco and Carl Lafferty have been working with his mental approach more than his fundamentals.
"It hasn't been anything I was doing different, just leaving some pitches over the plate where I shouldn't have been giving them anything to hit. It's more a mental approach than anything," Crouse said.
Some good, some bad
There have been some pitching success stories - particularly Game 3 starter Austin Wright with his best outing of the season on Saturday against Mississippi State - but there hasn't been enough consistency from starters or relievers for the Rebels to win enough SEC games.
Collectively Ole Miss pitchers have a 5.29 ERA against SEC foes, a figure that ranks ahead of only Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee.
Offensively the numbers are better against the league than they were a year ago in spite of a slow start in the non-conference season.
Last year the Rebels hit just .262 against the league and had just 28 home runs with the bats that were designed for greater production.
This year the Rebels are hitting .284 against the league and have hit 30 home runs.
The fact that Ole Miss hasn't often enough matched productive pitching with productive offense contributes to its current lot in life - ninth in the overall standings and facing a must-win series at Arkansas to qualify for the SEC tournament.
You can chart the Rebels' SEC struggles to the first weekend in May last year. They swept MSU in Starkville, and with nine league games left were 14-7 and in position for overall and Western Division titles. They went 2-7 in those games and are just 14-22 in SEC games since that successful trip to Dudy Noble Field.
The moral of this story is that Drew Pomeranz is really good. Players like that don't come around often, but they need to come around more, somehow finding their way to Oxford and not an MLB farm system. The Rebels will need to successfully navigate the draft with several names in the current recruiting class.
Star power in the recruiting is part of the equation. Development is another, and improvement has been evident this season with several players, freshmen Will Allen and Austin Anderson of late, but also sophomore Alex Yarbrough.
More of both is needed to find the consistency that separates the good from the great, that can get offense and pitching clicking together and can get the Rebels back among the elite teams in college baseball.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.