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2019 NCAA Baseball Tournament: Jacksonville State has been your recurring fever dream this week

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Memories of football thrash in your cerebral cortex.

Jacksonville State Baseball-Twitter

Yeah, you’ve “never heard of ‘em.”

They’re “some small school, we got this.”

We’re all in the same place. This school left an indelible mark on our collective memory bank - it was a low point in our athletics history. It was nearly a decade ago but that 49-48 loss will never go away and always be brought up by our rivals until we die, it’s an unfortunate reality.

But that was football and this is baseball. It’s surely not going to happen again, right? Anyone? PLEASE!

Jacksonville St. (37-21, 22-8 OVC) comes into today’s game on a 12-game winning streak including its run through the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. The Gamecocks finished first in the conference in the regular season as well most likely due to its ability to win games on the road. JSU finished with a 14-10 record in away games — the only team in its conference to finish above .500 in that metric.

But this isn’t the Tennessee Tech monsters fueled by performance enhancing rolled bats the Rebels ran into last season (yeah, still salty, sue me). JSU is batting .277 as a team with only two players with double-digit home runs this season. Its pitching staff meanwhile compiled a 4.30 earned run average.

The numbers are strikingly similar to the Rebels as Ole Miss finished its season with a .277 batting average and a 4.34 ERA though the competition was clearly a different scale.

When we look at similar opponents, JSU played six games in 2019 against SEC opponents going 2-4 in two game series against Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia. Interestingly enough, they went 0-2 against Alabama who did not make the NCAA tournament and finished last in the SEC while they split the two-game midweek series with Georgia and Auburn.

Some of you are in to superstitions and history repeating itself, which could potentially be a good thing in this case. Believe it or not, the last time Ole Miss faced JSU in baseball was in a regional to begin its run to the 2014 College World Series. BELIEVE.

The Gamecocks pitching staff is led by Garrett Farmer (5-1, 2.24 ERA) who the Rebels will face tonight. Farmer seemingly has phenomenal control as he sports a 8:1 strikeout to walk ratio while tallying 100 innings pitched in 15 starts. The Rebels have got to find a way to elevate his pitch count and run him out of the game before the sixth inning in my opinion.

JSU relievers Jackson Tavel (3-1, 1.98 ERA) and Corley Woods (6-0, 2.25 ERA) are the most reliable options out of the bullpen with a few others notching saves this season on the back end of games for the ‘Cocks.

On the offensive side, Nic Gaddis totes the load for JSU with a .333 batting average, 13 home runs, and 42 runs batted in. Gaddis additionally has only struck out 36 times in the 57 games he has played this season.

The ‘Cocks just seem to will their way to wins and scratch runs across the plate at a decent rate. For the Rebels, Will Ethridge (6-6, 2.94 ERA) has to keep JSU off the bases and not allow them to string together hits to produce runs. JSU posted 925 total bases for the season compared to 875 for the Rebels though the ‘Cocks scored 43 less runs than Ole Miss, indicating to me a more small ball philosophy.

So, here we are, another anxiety inducing postseason of Ole Miss baseball. Find a cold, American light lager, fire up the grill, and do what you can to enjoy every minute of it. It’s time to play ball.

How to watch

Time: 7pm CST
Online: WatchESPN
Audio: TuneIn