It was only a few weeks ago that we were in panic mode on this here web site. Ole Miss had just lost two-of-three to horrible, terrible, no-good Kentucky at home and were on the brink of potentially falling into the three-seed conversation. Fast forward to today and now the No. 11 Rebels (32-17, 15-9) are tied for second in the SEC West and are projected to host their own regional, per D1Baseball.
Now, all they have to do is take care of No. 5 Mississippi State (39-10, 15-9) when they arrive at Swayze Field for a three-game series to possibly settle who is the No. 2 team coming out of the West division. But, it won’t be easy because the Bulldogs are arguably one of the most complete teams in the country.
Offensively they’re led by PhD student Jake Mangum who is in his ninth year in Starkville. He leads the team with a .404 average and recently broke the record for most hits ever in the conference. Justin Foscue leads them with 13 home runs and they have four other every day players with 40 or more RBI’s. On the mound, they’re just as dangerous.
Golden Spikes Award finalist Ethan Small gets things started on Friday. He sports a 1.85 earned run average and a ridiculous 122 strikeouts in just 73 innings pitched. After him is freshman sensation J.T. Ginn who leads the team with eight wins and also has phenomenal strikeouts numbers (82 strikeouts in 64.1 innings).
Needless to say, the Rebs will need to get off to a hot start and chase Small and Ginn to get to the Dawgs bullpen which hasn’t been as impressive as their starters. If that can happen, the Rebs have the offense (.294 SEC team average) and the bullpen to hold off State in an effort to win their ninth series of the season.
With all that said, the weather is supposed to be very, very bad starting Friday night. Per Weather dot com, the precipitation chances reach as high as 90 percent on Friday and fail to drop below 80 percent the next day. So, odds are the Rebs and Bulldogs will need to get a game in on Friday and will be staring a double header in the face on Sunday.
How to watch
TV: ESPN2 (Sunday)
Friday: 8:30 p.m. CT
Saturday: 6 p.m. CT
Sunday: 12 p.m. CT
3 things to look for this weekend
Can Doug Nikhazy do it again?
The true freshman has been dynamite this season. Last week, he threw 6.1 innings, scattered five hits, and allowed just one run in a win against LSU in Baton Rouge, helping the Rebs win their first series there in 37 years. Now, he will be tasked with shutting down one of the best teams in the country.
He has a 2.98 ERA in conference play and teams are hitting just .229 against him. His tenacity and ability to wiggle out of tough scenarios has been there all season long and it will be needed this weekend as well against Chris Lemonis’ top-five squad. Nikhazy’s ability to work ahead of hitters, throw inside, and use his off-speed stuff to keep them guessing will be a key cog to his success in game two.
Will Ole Miss ever make it easy?
Last weekend in game three, Ole Miss led LSU 7-0 after three innings, 10-4 after five innings, and took a 15-9 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
Then, they preceded to give up six runs with two outs and had to win in the 10th, sparing me and many others an aneurism. Could it have been nerves getting to Ole Miss in the time when they were trying to win a series for the first time since 1982 or could it be aLeX bOx MaGiC?!?! Either way it was intoxicating to watch it unfold and don’t want to go through it again while playing the maroon and white team.
Is God not wanting Ole Miss to play baseball this year?
You tell me.