SEC West Leader Ole Miss Heads to Gainesville

For the second week in a row, No. 4 Florida will host the SEC West leader. The Gators (31-10/14-4 SEC) will take on Ole Miss this weekend, but the Rebels (24-17/9-9 SEC) have lost three of their last four SEC series as they come to Gainesville. Despite the recent Ole Miss struggles, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan knows his team will host one of the most successful SEC teams in recent memory.

"(Ole Miss head coach) Mike Bianco and his team have probably had the most success out of anybody in this league the last ten years," O'Sullivan said.

The Rebels bring in a pitching staff that is rebuilt from last season. Drew Pomeranz and Aaron Barrett combined to win 16 games on the mound for Ole Miss last season, but Pomeranz was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, and Barrett also chose to move on to the next level.

What remained on the Rebels staff were talented arms that hadn't proven much.

Junior left-hander Matt Crouse (6-2, 2.81) has turned into the ace for the Rebels. He will start on Friday night at 7 p.m. for Ole Miss against the Gators, who will counter with sophomore right-hander Hudson Randall (7-1, 1.53). Crouse has given up 61 hits in 67.1 innings this season while recording 47 strikeouts. He throws strikes, as he has only walked ten batters. Opponents are hitting .244 against Crouse this season.

The Saturday matchup is where the Rebels get shaky on the mound. Junior right-hander David Goforth (3-5, 4.60) will get the ball against Florida sophomore left-hander Brian Johnson (6-1, 2.53). Goforth has given up 62 hits in 60.2 innings while also walking 24 hitters. The normally patient Florida lineup will need to remain that way to work his pitch count and try to earn some free trips on the bases. Opponents hit .270 off Goforth. First pitch Saturday is set for 7 p.m.

Junior left-hander Austin Wright (4-3, 4.36) will get the ball for the Rebels on Sunday against Florida freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (5-0, 2.25). Wright has been the most consistent strikeout starter for the Rebels, racking up 50 strikeouts in 53.2 innings. He has allowed 62 hits in that time and walked 20, while opponents hit .290 against him. First pitch Sunday will take place at 1 p.m.

The Ole Miss offense is very similar to the one Florida saw in Oxford last season.

Sophomore second baseman Alex Yarbrough leads the team with a .350 batting average, plus a team-high 35 runs scored. Yarbrough is second on the team with four home runs, 28 RBIs and 12 doubles.

The power bats in the middle of the order come from familiar names around the Ole Miss program. Seniors Matt Tracy and Matt Smith anchor the middle of the lineup.

Tracy is hitting .312 with four home runs and 30 RBIs. Smith is hitting .305 with a team-high six home runs and 25 RBIs.

There are six Ole Miss players who have at least three home runs on the season, while the Gators only have three players who can say that. Despite the disparity, the Gators have 32 home runs compared to the Rebels' 29.

The power bats are a threat to the pitching staff, but it does help the Florida pitchers to have familiarity with the opponent.

"It helps us a lot," Johnson said. "You've got the same scouting report as you did last year basically. They've got a lot of power guys in their lineup that are really good."

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