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A top five showdown in Oxford: Ole Miss vs. Tennessee baseball

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All the golf ball and mustard references one can hope for

Courtesy Ole Miss Athletics, Joshua McCoy

This might be one of the biggest regular season SEC series in Oxford in years - it’s No. 1 Ole Miss versus No. 5 Tennessee.

Lost in all of this weekend madness is the fact there will be 24 more SEC games after this series, so while it’s not do-or-die, a Rebel series win solidifies its place at the top spot in the country for another week. That’s it pretty much - some great hay to put in the barn but not a guarantee of anything later.

Tennessee (20-1, 3-0 SEC) comes into this series with a lot of swagger undoubtedly. A series sweep of South Carolina, 59 home runs, and a team ERA under 2.00 all points to what is likely the best team ever out of Knoxville.

Ole Miss (16-4, 2-1 SEC) is not new to success and long held success in baseball under head coach Mike Bianco. The series does come at an inopportune time as offensive star Kevin Graham is still seemingly out with a fractured wrist. Please someone invent a bone serum in the next six hours for K-dog to be well by first pitch.

Oh, speaking of first pitch....

There’s been enough “please throw a yellow golf ball/bottle of mustard” jokes on Twitter already, so we’ll just say it would be great to really make the rest of the nation mad if Coach Lane Kiffin just threw cold hard cash from the mound to two-sport athlete Tywone Malone crouched behind the plate. Pay the players, it’s all ok, chase that paper and enjoy capitalism.

Friday and Saturday are both completely sold out, so if you are trying to get tickets, it’s either Sunday or finding someone who needs the money at this point. There will likely be 35,000 or so fans in total this weekend at Swayze Field and it could shatter previous attendance records at Ole Miss.

The biggest concern going into this series, however, is pitching for Ole Miss. Here are the starting pitching match-ups for this weekend.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Friday

Ole Miss: LHP John Gaddis, 2-0, 2.78 ERA

Tennessee: RHP Chase Burns, 4-0, 0.67 ERA

Saturday

Ole Miss: RHP Jack Dougherty, 1-0, 4.26 ERA

Tennessee: RHP Chase Dollander, 3-0, 3.38 ERA

Sunday

Ole Miss: RHP Derek Diamond, 3-1, 5.32 ERA

Tennessee: RHP Drew Beam, 4-0, 1.09 ERA

It doesn’t take a math major to realize the Rebel starters have struggled against talented opposition, and Tennessee will certainly bring talent this weekend. What the Rebels have to execute on from the mound is limiting the big mistakes and honestly I would have every reliever ready to go every game. It may take six or seven arms to get through these games if they turn into offensive shootouts.

Which leads to the next point - Ole Miss has got to score crooked numbers as often as possible at the dish. I am heartened by the twelve games the Rebels have posted double digit runs this season, and it is incredibly likely Ole Miss will need two more performances like that to win this series.

But, look, the weather is going to be clear and cool. Bring on the cold beers. Fire up the grill and toss on some thick cut bologna, ribs, brats, and dogs. Be loud and unruly for the Rebels. Cheers and Hotty Toddy!