Ole Miss baseball is doing things a bit different this weekend. Leaving the refuge of Swayze for the first time this season, they'll head to the campus of Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C. for a four-team mini tournament. The Rebs will play one game apiece against the No. 18 hometown Chanticleers (5-3), Ball State (3-5) and Cincinnati (0-7).
If you're expecting a standard Friday night first pitch, you'll miss the Rebs' opening game against Ball State, which gets going at 11 a.m. CT.
The most daunting competition comes on Saturday against Coastal, which is hosting the third of four on-campus tournaments to start its season. Don't expect an easy win just because these guys play in the Big South: the Chanticleers are 2-2 against Power Five schools so far this year, including an upset over then-No. 4 Virginia on Opening Weekend. A team that ranked 28th nationally in scoring last year returns eight of its regular starters, six of which are hitting over .300 in 2016.
3 big questions
1. Is sticking with the standard rotation the way to go?
With the matchup against Coastal being on Saturday, there's a temptation to move Friday ace Brady Bramlett to a Game 2 start. But Mike Bianco is sticking to his standard weekend schedule and will throw Chad Smith against the Chanticleers on Saturday.
I think Bianco's rigidness gets him into trouble at times, but in this instance it seems like the obvious call. Baseball players being the creatures of habit that they are, it's not a bad thing to keep them in a comfortable rhythm, particularly this early in the season. Of course it helps that Smith, who struggled in his first start against FIU, bounced back big time with seven quality innings against then-No. 2 Louisville last weekend.
Coastal, for its part, is staying with No. 2 starter Tyler Poole on Saturday. The only problem is that Poole has been the best pitcher on the staff through two weekends, notching wins against App State and Duke while leading the team with a 0.84 ERA and a .175 opponent batting average.
2. Where are ya, Colby?
Lost in the Rebs' hot start is the fact that Colby Bortles, who's being asked to replace King Dinger Sikes Orvis as the primary power bat, is hitting .217 out of the gate. Batting cleanup, he's produced only two RBI and has yet to leave the yard. Granted, 23 at-bats is too small of a sample size to draw any real conclusions. You know Colby will break out sooner or later, but it sure would be nice if he could do it this weekend. This lineup needs him pumping out power numbers in the four-hole.
3. Can Bianco find a DH?
The need for Bortles to start producing is intensified by the lack of production at the designated hitter spot. Holt Perdzock, who's five DH starts are more by default than anything he's done to earn them, has the same slugging percentage as he does average: .231. The other two guys that have made DH starts -- freshmen D.J. Miller and Ryan Olenek -- haven't fared much better. Coming into Wednesday's game against Memphis, Ole Miss DHs were hitting .190 with one extra-base hit. Perdzock went 1-for-4 with an RBI against the Tigers, but that was against midweek pitchers that struggled with control all game.
How to tune in
For the first time all season, you won't be able to stream the games on WatchESPN.com. It looks like Saturday's game against Coastal will be streamed on the Big South Network, but there's no indication that the other games will be. For those, your best bet is to fork up $9.95 for a month's subscription to Rebelvision, which will be streaming the Ole Miss Rebel Sports Network with Eli Savoie and Keith Kessinger on the call.
If you have a lead on alternate means of watching or listening, drop it in the comments.
All times Central
11 a.m. - Ole Miss vs. Ball State
3 p.m. - Coastal Carolina vs. Cincinnati
10 a.m. - Cincinnati vs. Ball State
2 p.m. - Ole Miss vs. Coastal Carolina
6 p.m. - Cincinnati vs. Ball State
10 a.m. - Ole Miss vs. Cincinnati
2 p.m. - Coastal Carolina vs. Ball State