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Ole Miss baseball opens SEC play against Alabama

The Rebs are back home after a rough midweek trip to Louisville.

Jsoh McCoy-Ole Miss Athletics

A day after Bama bounced Ole Miss hoops out of the SEC Tournament, the Diamond Rebs will get their own shot at the Tide. Mike Bianco’s club, which suffered a midweek sweep at No. 7 Louisville this week, heads back to Oxford to open conference play.

The No. 9 Ole Miss Rebels (12-5) were out-hit and out-pitched by Louisville, losing two games by a score of 14-11. The offense struggled mightily, with preseason All-American Thomas Dillard looking human (he’s now only hitting .371). After rough midweek outings, Grae Kessinger, Chase Cockrell and Tim Elko are hitting a combined .208 this season.

Joining the bottom of the lineup on the struggle bus is the starting pitching. The woes continued against the Cardinals so this weekend’s matchup against Alabama (.296 team average) is crucial for not only their confidence moving forward but also in establishing a weekend rotation.

How to watch

TV: none
Online: WatchESPN
Audio: TuneIn

Friday: 6:30 p.m. CT
Saturday: 1:30 p.m. CT
Saturday: 1:30 p.m. CT

3 things to look for this weekend

Cooper Johnson is a different dude this year.

The former 28th-round pick by the Cincinnati Reds had a ton of expectations when he made it campus, but couldn’t find an offensive stride through his first two years. This season is a different story. Johnson is currently hitting .302, slugging .558 and has two home runs.

He’s been as strong as ever behind the plate, blocking up balls left and right, handling the pitching staff and making just one error through 17 games. If the Rebels are going to make a run in the postseason they’ll need both his bat and his leadership behind the plate.

Zack Phillips is still in the weekend rotation.

The JUCO native has had a rocky start to his Rebel career but last week’s start against UAB was what pitching coach Carl Lafferty has been looking for. The junior from Texarkana, Ark. struck out seven, scattered six hits and walked one in a seven-inning start that gave him his first win as a Rebel.

The Tide comes in with an impressive lineup that is swinging it well so far this year. Three of their top four hitters swing it from the left side, so Phillips should like how he matches up with them from the jump.

Is Connor Green the new closer?

Okay, that might be a little much. Parker Caracci is still on the staff but Green has been a revelation in the bullpen as a senior. Through seven appearances he’s sporting a sparkling 0.68 earned run average and holding opponents to a .146 batting average. In 13.1 innings, he has struck out 16, won three games, and has only walked two hitters. With the starting pitching struggling, Green’s presence in the middle and late innings has been been big.