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Ole Miss baseball vs. Alabama: Online streaming, TV info and preview

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The two worst teams in the West will tangle in Swayze this weekend. What’s the worst that could happen?

Josh McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics

After being swept at home by a Mississippi State team with no pitching and two All-SEC bats, the Rebels could have sulked and limped down to Pearl and taken their licks from No. 17 Southern Miss. But, Mike Bianco’s club fought back from a 5-1 deficit and came away with a big-time neutral site win that could be a resume feather later in the year if Ole Miss (17-12, 3-6) makes the NCAA tournament.

Alabama (13-16, 2-7) does in fact limp into Oxford this weekend, pulling up the rear of the Western Division. They are in the bottom tier of the conference in hitting (11th), slugging percentage (10th), on-base percentage (11th), runs scored (11th) and hits (12th). But, hey, so are the Rebs! The pendulum does swing in Ole Miss’ direction when it comes to the pitching matchup.

The Tide aren’t terrible but they struggle against mediocre competition and fail to compete against conference opponents. They have been swept by Oral Roberts and Missouri and lost series to Arkansas and South Carolina. They also have head-scratching losses to Jacksonville State, Samford and Troy. So if Ole Miss wants to get back on the winning track, the wins are there this weekend, but they’re going to have to outhit a better team.

Greg Goff’s club is led at the plate by Chandler Avant (.325, 10 2B, .408 slugging), Cobie Vance (.318, 20 RBI, .391 slugging) and Hunter Alexander (.299, team-high 22 RBI, 4 HR). As a team, they can really swing it (.276 team average) and will challenge the Rebel arms this weekend. The real kicker for this weekend is if the Ole Miss bats can start a fire or not. Bama struggles with consistent pitching (3.69 team ERA) and their opponents so far have been hitting pretty well against them (.255 opponent average). The key for a series win is getting the bats going.

2 big questions

1. Do midweek games really matter when it comes to NCAA seeding?

For those that follow college baseball, you know that midweek games can get a little weird. The Rebels have had their fair share of odd moments on weekdays, but does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? After conducting some brief research, wins and losses don’t seem to have much of an effect on the resume.

Starting in 2010, the Rebels were 12-2 in the midweek, 39-24 overall and were ultimately a No. 2 seed in the Virginia regional. The next year, they were 7-5 and 30-25 and missed the postseason. In 2012, Ole Miss was 11-4, 37-26 and a three-seed in the Texas A&M regional. The next season, the Rebels went just 9-5 on weekdays and made it in as a No. 2 again in the N.C. State regional. To most people’s surprise, the Rebs’ 2014 record in the midweek was just 10-4 yet they hosted and won their regional on their way to Omaha. In the last two seasons, Ole Miss went 8-6 and 12-3 respectively and was a two and a one in their regional.

So after seeing these numbers, the first thing you think of is that the record isn’t exactly a perfect metric to measure NCAA Tournament seeding success. I think it has more to do with the non-conference RPI numbers and how big a bomb it is when you lose in the midweek to the likes of Memphis, UALR and Tulane. The 2014 squad lost a few goofy match ups on Tuesdays, but ended taking care of business elsewhere and hosting a regional. And then there’s the curious case of the 2010 team who only lost two games, yet struggled in conference and was a two. Alas, the debate rages on.

2. Can the veteran bats turn it around in time for a run?

Rebel Grove’s Chase Parham wrote a piece earlier this week about how the experienced bats are going through some tough times. Tate Blackman, Colby Bortles, Will Golsan and Ryan Olenek have had their ups and (mostly) downs in 2017 and the Rebs are really struggling because of it. The freshmen have had their bright spots, but you really need the upperclassmen to set the table and clear it most of the time.

After sweeping the two opening series, the Rebel bats fell into a black hole and where nowhere to be found for some time. Blackman had an all-conference type year in 2016 (.322, 13 2B, 38 RBI) but has been hit or miss this season. Bortles hit .269 last season and smashed 8 HR and drove in 50 runs. Golsan was extremely consistent in his first two seasons but seems to be struggling this season due to pressing and trying to get the big hit to spark the offense. And finally, Olenek hit .265 as a freshman and was a pleasant surprise that was a nuisance for opposing pitchers.

Turn the page to 2017 and the upperclassmen have combined for a .274 average through 29 games, thanks in large part to a resurgence as of late. The four Rebels have seemed to really adjust their approach and are being much more selective in plus counts and putting together much more quality at-bats. The key for Mike Clement’s lineup moving forward is for this trend to continue and for the underclassmen to chip in here and there when they can in advantageous situations. If this happens, paired with the elite arms Carl Lafferty has at his disposal, Ole Miss could improve its offense and potentially get in position to win meaningful games down the stretch.

The numbers

Complete Ole Miss stats | Complete Bama stats

How to watch

Friday

First pitch: 6:30 p.m. CT
TV: none
Online streaming: WatchESPN.com
Game-time weather: 64°, sunny, 10% chance of rain
Projected pitchers
Ole Miss: RHP James McArthur (1-1, 2.00 ERA)
Bama: LHP Dylan Duarte (2-1, 2.48 ERA)

Saturday

First pitch: 3 p.m. CT
TV: none
Online streaming: WatchESPN.com
Game-time weather: 73°, sunny, 0% chance of rain
Projected pitchers
Ole Miss: LHP David Parkinson (4-2, 2.79 ERA)
Bama: RHP Nick Eicholtz (1-0, 5.96 ERA)

Sunday

First pitch: 3 p.m. CT
TV: SEC Network
Online streaming: WatchESPN.com
Game-time weather: 79°, mostly sunny, 10% chance of rain
Projected pitchers
Ole Miss: LHP Ryan Rolison (3-1, 2.08 ERA)
Bama: TBA