Saturday: A little bit of timely hitting and a lot of luck - or perhaps capitalizing on the mistakes of the opponent - secured a 6-2 Rebel victory yesterday. Mike Mayers Started the game well, and R.J. Hively was masterful in relief. Mayers pitched five innings, giving up four hits and two earned runs, while Hively picked up the win in four innings of one hit baseball. Matt Snyder's two run homerun in the first gave the Rebels an early lead, while a fistful of Rebel hits and Bulldog errors conspired to give the Rebels two runs in the tops of the seventh and ninth innings.
Today: Luis Pollorena will get the start for Mississippi State today. Pollorena is a diminutive lefty who is 2-0 on the year with a 1.86 ERA. Ole Miss will start Tanner Bailey, the redshirt junior right handed pitcher making his 11th appearance and 2nd start. He's 1-0 on the year with a 2.95 ERA. I fully expect Bianco and company to piecemeal together a platoon of pitchers today, unless Bailey is uncharacteristically lights out. Expect appearances from Hawtin Buchanan, Aaron Greenwood, and Dylan Chavez.
Friday: The Rebels were no match for Chris Stratton, who moved to 8-0 on the year and bolstered his candidacy for pitcher of the year while pitching complete game shutout. Alex Yarbrough did go 3-of-4 on Stratton, which was exactly 60% of the Rebels offensive output on the night. Suffice it to say that Stratton completely controlled the contest from start to finish.
Bobby Wahl earned his first loss on the season, giving up three runs with one earned.
Today: The game starts at 2:00 PM and will be, again, on SportSouth. Mike Mayers will take the mound for the Rebels opposite Kendall Graveman for the Bulldogs. Graveman is a junior right handed pitcher who is 3-2 on the year with a 2.93 ERA and an opposing batting average of .245.
If hosting an NCAA Regional is a goal of this baseball team for this season, every series from here on out then becomes a must win type of series. Thankfully, most of Ole Miss' more difficult opponents - Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida - have come and gone, but some quality series both away and at home are still on the schedule for Mike Bianco and his squad. This weekend is one such series.
Instead of spending Double Decker weekend in the friendly confines of Oxford-University Stadium at Swayze Field surrounded by thousands of somewhat-inebriated partisans, the boys in blue will be in Starkville at Dudy Noble Field, the greatest scene in college baseball circa 1996, fighting off a team, school, and fan base which would love nothing more than to knock that nice #18 away from mentions of our baseball program.
The opening game of this series is, potentially, the most difficult game we'll play all year. Seemingly out of nowhere - and I say that because I personally don't pay attention to college baseball outside of Ole Miss - State's Chris Stratton has emerged as perhaps the best pitcher in the Southeastern Conference. For starters, he's from Tupelo, so he grinds for his state and all that. He also has a 7-0 record, 2.71 ERA, and 88 Ks. Those 88 strike outs, by the way, is tops in the SEC and third in the nation. The guy can absolutely fan batters and has done just that all year. He is, easily, the most consistent thing State has going for them.
The Rebel offense, though, is second in the SEC in batting average and boasts Alex Yarbrough's SEC-leading hitting streak (20 games or so, right?) and .421 average. Stratton will certainly be challenged, but not to the same extent that I feel our batters will be challenged.
Bobby Wahl will take the mound again for the Rebels on Friday night, and should fare well enough against Mississippi State's collective .261 average. What does worry us, though, is the Rebel bullpen, which has blown Bobby Wahl established leads against Kentucky and Georgia, and is still without closer Brett Huber.
Tonight's game starts at 7:00 PM and will be on SportsSouth (whatever the hell that is). Watch it. Unless you're watching Deer Tick and Iron & Wine. Then that's cool. We'll be right here waiting on you whenever you get back from your fun.
[NOTE: I will update this as the weekend progresses. It's probably the better way to go about it.]