When the regional teams were announced, Ole Miss fans were crushed to hear that Jacksonville State would once again be coming to Oxford. But that didn't have anything to do with baseball as fans were remembering.... this game. We get it. It's not funny anymore.
But this isn't football, and it isn't 2010. The Diamond Rebs aren't coached by Houston Nutt. They're coached by the most consistently successful baseball coach in program history. This Jacksonville State team is 36-25 and 12-14 playing away games... in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Look, I'm not saying Ole Miss couldn't lose this game. It's just not likely. The Gamecocks' best starter, Zachary Fowler, is 7-7 on the season with an ERA of 3.58. I don't know much else about his game because I can't find a draft profile anywhere. Jacksonville State's team ERA is 4.56 with only one pitcher under 3.38.
But they do have a strength in their offense, boasting five players batting over .300 on the season. They have six players who have hit 11 or more doubles on the season while Ole Miss has just four. Jacksonville State drives the ball a lot, particularly freshman first baseman Paschal Petrongolo, who leads the team in doubles with nineteen and triples with seven. To put that in perspective, Will Jamison somehow leads the Rebels in triples with four.
So in order to win, the Rebels need to take advantage of pitching mistakes and limit extra base hits. Obviously, that's a recipe for winning in baseball more times than not, but this is particularly the case against he Gamecocks. Whenever you see teams regularly hitting for extra bases, it has potential to lead to an upset.
I imagine Mike Bianco will go with Chris Ellis in this game, and that's probably the right call. It's not like Jacksonville State is a team that has no business playing in a regional. They can hit and don't have terrible pitching. The Rebels have to take them seriously, but I don't see this game getting away from them. Despite what many of our fans think, this Ole Miss team is a strong competitor, and the teams who drew its regional were probably pretty angry.
Catch this game at 7 PM Friday on ESPN3.