No. 4 Ole Miss will host Purdue out of the Big Ten for a three game weekend series at Swayze Field as the Rebels continue its title defense from 2022.
The Rebels (11-2) have gotten off to a fast start as expected and have racked up five wins against Big Ten opponents already. Last season, the bottom three teams in the Big Ten won eight or fewer conference games, so there is a very alive and real chance Ole Miss will compile more Big Ten victories non-conference than one of its member schools. Thanks for playing, you guys.
But the Boilermakers (8-4) do seem to have some talent in its roster and have scored 53 runs in its last three games, albeit to Akron - still that’s a lot of runs. Purdue has six starters batting over .300 for the season and have a team batting average of .322, which is strong regardless of competition. So how has it lost four games?
Ah, yes, pitching. While Purdue on paper has two solid starters for Friday and Saturday, we’re looking at a TBA situation on Sunday. The goal for the Rebels in its first two games would be to get into the bullpen as quickly as possible where depth seems to be more of an issue. There are a few relievers with low ERA’s, but it falls apart soon after.
Additionally it seems one of the teams emerging starters, Kyle Iwinski, who started his first game of the season against Akron on March 4 has only allowed one earned run in more than 14 innings pitched. Whether he’s the guy on Sunday remains to be seen, but it would be a huge stage compared to his only start in black and gold.
Friday, March 10, 6:30 p.m. CT
Ole Miss: RHP Jack Dougherty, 1-1, 2.92 ERA
Purdue: RHP Khal Stephen, 1-0, 3.52 ERA
Saturday, March 11, 1:30 p.m. CT
Ole Miss: RHP Grayson Saunier, 1-0, 4.63 ERA
Purdue: LHP Jonathan Blackwell, 2-0, 2.93 ERA
Sunday, March 12, 1:30 p.m. CT
Ole Miss: LHP Xavier Rivas, 3-0, 7.30 ERA
Ole Miss counters Purdue with a line-up that features four players batting .400 or better, joining only one other school in the country to do so (New Mexico). The Rebels are riding a five game win streak coming into the weekend which is the final non-conference weekend series of the season.
Jack Dougherty pitched really well last weekend at the Cambria College Classic, and he has been a reliable option with Hunter Elliott on the mend. Every quality start he can muster is huge as Elliott is expected back some time in the next couple weeks potentially.
Grayson Saunier has locked down the Saturday spot in my opinion after striking out 11 batters in his last start. He hasn’t been a perfect starter by any means, but he has shown he can get through 4-5 innings of work and keep the Rebels in the game. Xavier Rivas, meanwhile, just cannot seem to get his control down, and its baffling what is going on there. Rivas pitched FOUR COMPLETE GAMES last season - how in the hell can you do that if you’re going full counts on more than half your batters now? You can’t, and something has to give or the senior transfer may end up relegated to midweek duty.
All three games of the series will be broadcast on SEC Network+ all weekend. Weather is expected to be soggy and cool, so the team from the rust belt may feel right at home. Please bring extra beers to right field and prepare appropriately.