Let's just not talk about Tuesday. It's almost Friday, so the weekend will erase it from memory.
Ole Miss (13-12, 3-3 SEC) heads into a monumental SEC road tilt against Arkansas (12-12, 1-5 SEC) that can really shed some light on what this team is made of. This team plays very well inside the friendly confines of Oxford-University Stadium, but the country's toughest schedule has not been very kind to the fellas on the road as they stumbled to a 3-6 record to start the year.
Looking ahead to this weekend's series starting tonight on ESPNU, the Rebels can help us all forget the slow start on the road and that "stuff" on Tuesday. Some key Rebels have looked good at the plate and are showing signs of hitting their stride. But don't let the .500 record fool you, this Arkansas team can really swing it and have three really solid arms that will challenge the Rebel bats with major league stuff.
Let's take a look at three big questions that need to be answered for the Rebs to have success in the Land of Wal-Mart this weekend.
1. Who will step up offensively?
It's no secret, this team needs leadership. Look no further than the man with the face follicle plan, Sikes Orvis. He is hitting .421 in five SEC games with three doubles, two dingers and nine RBIs. Probably would be a lot more if he wasn't suspended for the series finale against No. 1 Florida, but some umpire was startled by the Stache, peed his pants and made a knee-jerk decision. Although he is still under the Mendoza line for the season, he is the heartbeat of this offense and needs to create some voodoo with the aluminum this weekend against a solid pitching staff.
Another guy that has been coming along of late is J.B. Woodman. Now at .264 on the season, the Carpenter needs to be on base for Mike Clement's offense to thrive. With his speed, he creates opportunities for Orvis to drive balls in the gap and for Woodman to put pressure on the defense to get the ball back into the infield without J.B. going from first to third on a single. They will battle a pitching rotation from Dave van Horn's club that features junior Trey Killian who had a perfect game through seven innings against Vanderbilt earlier this season and tossed four complete games last season (all against NCAA tournament teams from the SEC).
2. Can we clone Brady Bramlett?
Often times forgotten due to the fact that his teammate, Christian Trent, has only lost one game in an Ole Miss uniform in two seasons, the young man from Bartlett, Tenn. has been nothing short of phenomenal in his second season as a Rebel. Tied for fifth in the SEC in strikeouts (42) and the proud owner of a microscopic 1.55 ERA, his command of the strikezone with a heavy fastball and an out pitch that can either be a hammer curve or changeup has left hitters shaking their heads as they walk back to the dugout all season.
So far this season, Brady has had successful outings such as striking out 12 against Stetson, going a career-high seven innings against No. 1 LSU and not allowing an earned run and beating No. 1 Florida last weekend. This type of consistency has got to become the norm for Carl Lafferty as he still tries to solve the Sunday mystery. He will be tasked with slowing down an Arkansas offense that is hitting at a .289 clip led by Bobby Wernes (.341) and Andrew Benintendi (.325). The Bianco pitching tree has produced countless big league arms and Bramlett looks poised to be the next one to come out of Oxford. Now, if only we could have a Bramy Bradlett to pitch on Sunday...
3. Will the Rebels make it four in a row?
Yes, you read that question correctly. Ole Miss is trying to win their fourth regular season series in a row against Arkansas this weekend. This is sure to be a tall task as this will be a weekend in the Natural State that is sure to provide some gorgeous Spring weather that is sure to bring out plenty of the Hog faithful. This young club has already been in front of huge crowds in Baton Rouge, La. and this weekend will be more of the same as Baum Stadium is usually packed with 10K on any given night on the weekend.
The Rebels will need to rely on their steady weekend pitching rotation, the Weatherman and Too Short coming out of the bullpen and some timely hitting from a club that is only hitting .249 heading into tonight's game. It has been seen in spurts this season, but when tablesetters Kyle Watson and Will Golsan get on, Woodman and Orvis tend to rise to the occasion and deliver. Another forgotten part of baseball at times is the art of the stolen base. Watson and Cameron Dishon have nine and 10 steals respectively and will need to continue to swipe bases in order to produce opportunities for the Rebels to drive in runs.
BONUS: Do you remember when Brian Walker lost his freaking mind?
Oh, the misunderstood dramatic antics of a cult hero. Never change, Mr. Walker...wherever you are.