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Ole Miss baseball hosts UAB for final non-conference series

The good guys look to get back on track against the Conference USA foe.

Josh McCoy-Ole Miss Athletics

The No. 10 Ole Miss Rebels (9-3) will try to rebound this weekend from a midweek loss to No. 18 East Carolina as they play host to the UAB Blazers. But, despite the loss to the Pirates and former assistant coach Cliff Godwin, the Rebs are still knocking the cover off the ball. They are 11th nationally in home runs and are top 25 in runs scored and slugging percentage, too.

As a team the Rebels are hitting .293 as a team, led by Ryan Olenek (.447), Thomas Dillard (.422), and Anthony Servideo (.346). Sophomore Tyler Keenan is leading the charge from an RBI-standpoint (22) and as a team they have already stolen 29 bases, good for yet another top 25 metric.

The pitching staff tasked with slowing down the Rebels brings in a team ERA of 3.60 but their starters have a combined win-loss record of 4-1 and a 2.03 ERA on the weekend. Will they be able to get it done or will Ole Miss be able to get back in the W column?

How to watch

TV: none
Online: WatchESPN
Audio: TuneIn

Friday: 3 p.m. CT
Saturday: 1:30 p.m. CT
Saturday: 1:30 p.m. CT

3 things to look for this weekend

Thomas Dillard can really hit but have you heard of this Ryan Olenek guy?

Tank has gotten a ton of attention this year. And for good reason. But, Olenek has been on a mission as well. The senior from Winter Park, Fla. has reached base safely in every game this year and is leading the team in average. His 21 hits, 15 runs, and four doubles all lead the team and he has been a huge reason for this year’s team’s success at the dish with his knack for the big hit.

The lineup has seen some shakeup early on, whether Olenek is in the two-hole or behind Dillard in the five-spot. Nevertheless, his hitting never takes a day off. This will certainly need to continue while Carl Lafferty’s pitching staff tries to find their footing.

Did Doug Nikhazy do enough to earn a spot on the weekend?

Even though he didn’t earn the win, the freshman from Windermere, Fla. has already made quite the impression on Mike Bianco. Outside of one bad pitch that resulted in a three-run homer, he went five innings, struck out seven, and scattered four hits. But, the command, velocity, and pitchability was there in spades.

With JUCO transfer Zack Phillips still struggling to find his footing on Saturday, this weekend’s start could be his last chance to prove his worth. But, if it was me making the decision, I would go with Nikhazy on Saturday. Sure, you will lose a left-handed arm out of the bullpen, but you will gain a guy with low-90’s stuff from the left-side and plus off-speed stuff. To me, it’s a no-brainer.

Will we get a consistent lineup anytime soon?

If I was writing out the lineup this is what I would go with:

  • Anthony Servideo - CF
  • Thomas Dillard - LF
  • Tyler Keenan - 3B
  • Cole Zabowski - 1B
  • Ryan Olenek - RF
  • Chase Cockrell - DH
  • Cooper Johnson - C
  • Jacob Adams - 2B
  • Grae Kessinger - SS

Leadoff is a no-brainer. Servideo has the highest on-base percentage on the team and does a fantastic job working counts. Dillard needs to be in the two or three-hole. Every game. He needs more at-bats. He’s the best hitter on the team and deserves more opportunities, dammit. From there, you have the team leader in runs batted in behind him in Keenan and then Zabowski’s .468 slugging percentage behind him.

From there, you’ve got the leading hitter on the team batting fifth. I personally like this move of having another dangerous hitter in the middle of the lineup. It has to give pitchers fits that despite getting through the top four guys regardless of how, then you have another guy hitting over .400 to deal with. Lastly, I like the move of bumping Kessinger down to the nine-hole. Even though his average doesn’t reflect it, he is still prone to getting on base more times than not (third on team in walks).