Tuesday’s loss to North Alabama really overshadowed last weekend’s road series win against then-No. 8 Arkansas. Yes, it was an RPI nuke, but all is not lost if the Ole Miss Rebels (20-10, 5-4) can find success this weekend against Kevin O’Sullivan’s No. 21 Florida Gators (21-10, 4-5). The usual SEC East stronghold is a bit on the mend after losing not one, not two, but three players in the first round of last year’s MLB Draft.
Ole Miss will have to bring their A-game against the Gators when they’re at the plate. Florida hits .288 as a team, led by Brady McConnell (.370, 5 HR, 23 RBI), Jacob Young (.368, 3 HR, 16 RBI), and Nelson Maldonado (.345, 5 HR, 26 RBI). On the mound, they’re not as strong as they typically are (4.14 team ERA). Tommy Mace will start tonight (5-2, 3.42 ERA, 41/13 K/BB) but games two and three are TBA for now.
The Rebs catch Florida on a bit of a down year. And at home to boot. With a big crowd expected because of decent weather for once and the Grove Bowl, this is a big opportunity for Ole Miss to win another SEC series.
How to watch
TV: SEC Network (Saturday)
Friday: 6:30 p.m. CT
Saturday: 12 p.m. CT
Saturday: 6:30 p.m. CT
3 things to look for this weekend
Is Tyler Keenan on pace to set a record?
30 games into 2019, sophomore third baseman Tyler Keenan is hitting .309, slugging .564, and has driven in 44(!) runs. The number that he is chasing is 79, set by outfielder Mark Wright in 2006. 13 of those came in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, setting the tourney record, breaking Alabama’s Dave Magadan’s record of 11.
So could he potentially break that record?
Certainly. He has the protection of Thomas Dillard, Ryan Olenek, and Cole Zabowski around him so that definitely helps, but he is really starting to see the ball well now and it couldn’t come at a better time. He currently leads the conference in RBI’s and has had two or more in a game 13(!) times this year.
Doug Nikhazy is ready to take the next step.
The true freshman was outstanding last weekend in Fayetteville. He earned a no decision against the Razorbacks, but he went 5.2 innings, scattered five hits, and struck out six. Dave Van Horn’s club came out swinging but Nikhazy responded well and wasn't phased at all by the atmosphere or the Arkansas bats.
Moving forward, the Rebs really need Doug to stay the course and to be lights out on Saturday. Mainly so it will be a smooth transition to the bullpen to bridge the games to closer Parker Caracci.
Grae Kessinger is hitting his stride.
At the start of the season, the junior short stop wasn’t exactly ripping the baseball. But, now that SEC play is here, he is dialed in. He is second on the team in conference play with a .342 average and is tied for first with Zabowski with seven RBI’s. Now that he appears to be locked in at the dish, the Rebs need him to stay this way in the lead off position to continue to give guys like Dillard, Keenan, and Zabowski RBI opportunities.