BASEBALL: Gators At Ole Miss Analysis

Florida and the Ole Miss are two teams that have been on the rise in various polls throughout the early 2005 baseball schedule. Both teams will enter Southeastern Conference play this weekend among the Top 15 teams in the country. It is a phenomenal opening match-up of conference rivals that have solid pitching, power, and for the Gators, incentive. What incentive? First place Florida was swept by the Rebels in Gainesville late last season.

Last season, the Gators went into the Ole Miss series with a league best 16-8 conference mark (tied with Alabama), a seven game winning streak which included a 3-2 win over Florida State just two days earlier, and an opportunity to control their own destiny in the SEC Eastern Division. Three days and three losses later, Florida found itself in a second place tie with South Carolina, one game behind Georgia, hopeful that they could win and get some much needed help to climb back on top. It simply didn't happen. Those losses to Ole Miss cost Florida dearly in the Eastern Division race. It was the first time in history that Ole Miss had swept a Florida baseball team.

Getting a jump in 2005 won't be any easier. Upon their return from Oxford, the Gators will face the Eastern Division favorite, South Carolina at The Mac. Getting off to a fast start is going to be extremely difficult. But, Florida isn't alone in that challenge.

The big four in the SEC East all have tough tasks ahead of them opening weekend. South Carolina hosts a very good Arkansas squad, Georgia hosts LSU, and Vanderbilt takes to the road in Starkville against Mississippi State. The following weekend doesn't get any easier for Vanderbilt who must take on Alabama. Only Georgia gets a break during week two, as the Bulldogs travel to Kentucky.

Ole Miss

Those close to the Ole Miss program say that the returning players are on a mission to prove that they didn't quit at the end of the 2004 season. After beating Florida and taking over first place in week 15, the Rebels won the first game of the regular season finale against LSU 7-6. However, they had a monumental collapse, losing the remaining two games against the Tigers, 11-4, and 14-6. Like they had just done to Florida, the Rebels went from first to third by dropping the series.

It obviously left a psychological scar on the team, one from which they couldn't rebound. Ole Miss bowed out of both the SEC and the NCAA Tournament(s) with consecutive losses. The Rebels hosted an NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history, but couldn't secure a single victory.

The Rebels finished their season with a 39-21 record. After beating Florida, Ole Miss found itself 38-16 and on the verge of winning the most games in school history. Ole Miserable found itself in a downward spiral after those Florida wins, losing six of their last seven games. They were one win from tying the school record.

Presently, the 14th ranked Rebels come into the Florida series riding a 10 game winning streak. The Rebs (14-3) secured two mid-week wins Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for the Gators (15-4) visit to Oxford.


Ole Miss returns four of their top pitchers from 2004. There is no question that big things are expected from the Rebels this season. They have also found a few mid-week pitchers who could help out if necessary.


Junior Mark Holliman pitched the Friday night contest against the Gators last season. The 6-1 right hander pitched 7.2 innings, allowing only two earned runs on nine hits, while striking out seven. A pre-season All-American, Holliman recorded 101 strikeouts, fourth best in the conference.

Holliman (3-0) is off to a pretty good start in '05. He has struck out 32 batters in 27 innings. Opponents are batting just .238 against him. He has not allowed a home run. However, Holliman has allowed 10 walks, so the Florida batters will probably demonstrate a little patience, especially if they can make something happen early.

Southpaw Stephen Head pitched in relief last year against the Gators. He closed out the final 1.1 innings on Friday night, allowing only one hit, while earning the save. The junior went 6-3 with a 2.82 ERA in 2004.

This season Head (3-0) has 20 strikeouts in 25.1 innings. Opponents are batting .292 against him. He is only six saves away from the school career record.

Right hander Anthony Cupps shut down the Florida offense last season. Cupps pitched eight strong innings, allowing only five hits and one earned run. The right hander is also off to a good start. Cupps (3-1) has struck out 18 batters in 24.2 innings of work, all as a starter. Opponents are hitting .310 against him.


The hottest pitcher for the Rebels this season is former Manatee Junior College star Matt Maloney. The 6-4, 205-pound lefty currently sports a 4-0 record with one save. Maloney has struck out 33 batters in a 27.2 innings. Opponents are batting only .144 against him. He has an ERA of 0.65 and has only given up 14 hits.

Maloney struggled last year in Gainesville though. He started the Sunday contest and the Gators rocked him with 10 hits and four earned runs in just four innings of work.

Junior Brian Pettway also pitched on Sunday against Florida. He gave up four hits and two earned runs while facing only 10 batters. Pettway has only pitched 5.2 innings this season. Opponents are batting .308 against him.




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The Rebels are led by a pair of two way players, who much like former Florida star Brad Wilkerson (Owensboro, Ky) are jacks of all trades. Outfielder/right hander Brian Pettway is off to a tremendous start. The Vicksburg native is crushing the ball for a .432 average. He has hit five home runs and five doubles to help boost his .716 slugging percentage. He has a team high 23 RBI's.

Sophomore Mark Wright is hitting a mere .422 for the Rebels. Wright is in his first year as a starter in left field. He leads the team with a .756 slugging percentage.

Preseason All-American selection Stephen Head, another Ole Miss two-way star, is also a tremendous offensive threat. In 2004, the junior hit .346 while driving in 53 runs. He finished the season tied for the team lead in home runs with 13. This season the first baseman/left hander is belting .361 with five home runs, four doubles, and triple. Head has also drawn 11 walks.

Third baseman Chris Coghlan has also been impressive at the plate. The Palm Harbor, Florida native is hitting at a .397 clip. Coghlan has ripped four home runs and six doubles.

Cooper Osteen is a switch hitting leadoff man. Osteen is batting .342 with a .407 on base percentage. He has drawn just six walks.

Senior catcher Barry Gunther is the lone Ole Miss starter batting under .306. The Ft. Lauderdale Westminster graduate is a pre-season All-SEC second team selection. To his credit he has drawn 11 walks which is key for a guy hitting at or near the bottom of the lineup. It could not be confirmed if Ole Miss's only hitter under .300 is responsible for laundry duties, with a heavy emphasis on clean jocks.

The Ole Miss lineup should feature the switch hitting Osteen at the top of the order, followed by the lefty Coghlan, Head (lefty), Pettway (right), and Wright (right).


















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Second baseman Cooper Osteen (.981) and Coghlan (.938) were among the best in fielding percentage at their respective positions throughout the SEC last season. Both originally hail from Florida.

This season Coghlan leads the Rebels in errors with five. He had had 43 chances. Osteen (79 chances) and shortstop Zack Cozart (77) have made three errors each.

Outfielder Alex "The King" Presley was errorless in 98 chances last season. Presley was especially impressive because he was just a freshman. However, Presley has already three errors in 27 chances and we're not even into the conference schedule. Fellow outfielder Miles Franklin also went the distance for the Rebels without an error. He accomplished this feat in 35 chances. Franklin has one error on the year.

The Rebels have turned 19 double plays. While Osteen, Coghlan, and Head return, the Rebels are breaking in freshman Cozart to handle short and keep the things moving along quickly.



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Base running

The Rebels count on their hitters to move them around. Ole Miss has stolen just 16 bases in 19 attempts this season. Osteen and Franklin are the leaders with four stolen bases on four attempts. Mark Wright is the only other starter with more than one steals, and he has but two.

Consequently, Florida's Stephen Barton has collected 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts this season by himself. Throw Jeff Corsaletti (6-7) into the mix and the pair equals the Rebels mark by themselves, and at a greater degree of success.


Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco is turning things around in Oxford. A school known for its also-rans in baseball has actually begun to show marked improvement. Bianco learned much of his coaching skills as a catcher under Coach Skip Bertman at LSU. Bianco is laying a solid foundation through outstanding recruiting. His four year record at Ole Miss is 150-90-1.


The Gators have yet to play on the road, and it is always tough to play in the SEC. They can expect to find a large crowd on hand to support the Rebels. Last season, Ole Miss hosted two of the top five (series) crowds in the SEC. Oxford University Stadium/Swayze Field swelled as 9,260 watched the Rebels sweep Tennessee, while 8,574 saw Ole Miss drop two of three to arch rival LSU.

Like many other teams in the conference, the roster includes several players who have either grown up or played JUCO ball in the state of Florida. There is always added incentive to show up the state's flagship university.

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