I really wish we still played Memphis in every sport.
Yes, their fans are annoying, sport wife beaters to any occasion, gel their hair and buy football tickets at Kroger for $5. Granted, if I had no respect for myself, I would do the same.
But I went to Ole Miss, so I don't do any of those things. Also, I actually follow the sport of baseball during basketball season, yet another blasphemy not imaginable by a Memphis fan.
The Memphis area consistently produces talent out of the eastern region of this urban blight. Prospects from Germantown, Collierville and even Cordova have populated Rebel rosters in the past, so I've always thought our team takes this game very seriously.
Arkansas State, on the other hand, is a consistent non-conference opponent who always seems to stay in games against Ole Miss. Sun Belt opponents, while not highly regarded, are usually fairly solid baseball teams (think Western Kentucky).
So here we are. Three games in and still undefeated, but can the Rebels pick up two more games before a road trip to Houston?
Memphis got off to a great start last weekend sweeping Evansville by plating 38 runs – its most productive weekend since I was about 7 years old (1991).
The Tigers hit .448 for the weekend but will face a veteran lefty in Matt Tracy on Tuesday for the Rebels. Tracy has been a little spotty in the pitching aspect of the game going 4-3 with a 5.85 ERA last season. He has shown he can hit, however, and it has to be the hope of Rebel fans that Tracy will also be batting against Memphis. There's nothing like a pitcher who can contribute to his own cause at the plate.
Memphis will counter with 6'5'' senior right-hander Dane Sharp out of Bartlett, Tenn. Sharp is a career 1-3, 5.67 ERA pitcher but has struck out 37 batters in 31.1 IP. From those statistics, I would assume he wants to be a power pitcher but may not have the stuff to blow people away or gets into trouble after two fantastic innings of work throwing too hard.
Last season, a much less quality Memphis team split with the Rebels, and I wouldn't be shocked if this game was extremely close. Memphis always seems to play up against Ole Miss, though Bianco holds a 17-3 record against the Tigers.
Arkansas State has amassed an 0-3 start to the season in games against Virginia, Auburn and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. All three are no slouches by any stretch of the imagination, so I expect a couple things from this team:
1.) There will be no intimidation factor of playing at Swayze Field against a perennial postseason SEC team.
2.) They'll be hungry to get a W against a quality non-conference opponent and willing to do anything to get that accomplished.
P.S. The ASU squad may pick up a victory against Murray State Tuesday, so the #2 point will be more or less moot.
Pitching for ASU is TBA, which didn't work out well for Wright State this weekend. R.J. Hively will take the mound for the Rebels after an atrocious outing Sunday for Ole Miss giving up 3 runs in 0.1 IP. As a Juco product, I thought Hively would be able to come in and contribute immediately, but if he struggles again here, he could be slotted for middle relief quickly (which, in Bianco's terms, means late April).
Last season, Ole Miss went 2-0 against ASU – winning 3-2 and 5-2. If the games are as low scoring this year, I would be incredibly surprised as the weekend scores for ASU showed its inability to keep quality teams off the scoreboard.