Back In Play

There are several ways for Ole Miss to look at tonight's game in Pearl against Southern Mississippi. Of course, the main objective is to win.

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But there is the question of focus after winning a series against No. 1 ranked Florida over the weekend. Will the Rebels come down from that high?

The Golden Eagles won 10-0 in Oxford two weeks ago and outhit Ole Miss 17-3 that night. Will the Rebels be in revenge mode?

There's the Mississippi factor. The Rebels have a number of Mississippians on their roster. But six position starters or the DH and the starting pitcher two weeks ago for USM were instate players. For Ole Miss in that game, no position starter, the starting DH, nor the starting pitcher were from Mississippi.

That's not intended to be a comparison of talent, just locale. The talented Rebels, now 20-8, just beat the top-ranked Gators two games out of three. But tonight, if there is incentive from a home turf standpoint, advantage Southern Mississippi.

USM enters the game 16-12 after dropping two of three games in Conference USA play at Rice last weekend.

Ole Miss junior outfielder Tanner Mathis said the Rebels understand the importance of this game, and also the importance of looking ahead, not back.

"You've gotta move on," he said, speaking of the Florida series. "It was only two wins. We're looking forward to playing Southern Miss again. It's another chance to win. Every game is a chance to get better. Every game is a chance to play your best baseball. It will be fun. Pearl's a great park. It'll be a great crowd. A lot of people that don't normally get to see us play will be there."

Mathis said the last time the Rebels and Golden Eagles met, things just got away from Ole Miss early and never stopped.

"Nothing went right for us, and everything went right for them," he said. "That was right after the Auburn series. It seemed like on Sunday at Alabama we got fired up. From the sixth inning or seventh inning on in that Sunday game at Alabama, things have been completely different."

Ole Miss beat Jackson State 12-0 a week ago, then took the Florida series. That's four wins in its last five starts.

But now the Rebels are set to face a familiar pitcher. The Golden Eagles will send sophomore right-hander Boomer Scarborough (1-0, 2.54 ERA) to the mound for the fourth time in his career against Ole Miss. The Pass Christian native has yet to record a decision against the Rebels in his three previous starts. But USM has won all three prior games.

Sam Smith
Bruce Newman

In fact the Golden Eagles have won four of the last six meetings between the two programs, and in Pearl at Trustmark Park, Southern Miss also has won four of six meetings.

Ole Miss will send freshman right-hander Sam Smith (1-2, 4.32 ERA) to face USM. Smith also started the game in Oxford.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said he believes the Rebels can build on the successful weekend by focusing on an important game tonight.

"We can't get too much into the rivalry," he said. "That's part of it. You're both in the same state, and we didn't do too well against them the last time. You don't play baseball with anger. You don't play with that kind of emotion. You have to make pitches and do the things we talk about week in and week out. It doesn't matter if it's about Florida or Southern Miss or Tennessee-Martin. It's about playing well.

"You've come off this big weekend and gotten a lot of pats on the back. Can you refocus and get back up for the game? Because if you don't play well, you're not going to get a good result. So we refocus as a team, get back into the game, and do what we do and be who we are."

Midweek games with Southern Mississippi and against teams like Mississippi State (Governor's Cup), Memphis, Arkansas State, Central Arkansas, and Murray State in the weeks ahead, mean the Rebels can't afford to not be at their sharpest, even in non-SEC play. Mathis said every game counts.

"It's fun, and it's why we came here," he said. "You know everyone's trying to beat you. I had a (high school) buddy just call me and say ‘People are saying y'all have got a target on y'all's back now that you beat Florida' and all this stuff. That's good. Bring it on. It makes for great baseball games, and makes it that much more fun."

Best of the Week

Sophomore right-hander Bobby Wahl was named SEC Pitcher of the Week on Monday.

Wahl took the mound for the Rebels on Friday night against Florida and worked 8.0 scoreless innings while holding the Gators to two hits in his time on the mound in the 3-0 UM victory. The 8.0 innings of work was a career-long for Wahl, who had only one base runner advance past first base in his time on the mound.

The shutout victory for Wahl was his third of the season and improved his record to 5-0 on the season. It was also the first time Florida had been shut out since March 8, 2011.

Wahl then used his feet to help clinch the weekend series on Sunday, entering the game as a pinch runner with one out in the bottom of the ninth. He entered to run for his catcher, Will Allen, who had reached on a single.

Wahl then went first to third on a single up the middle from Preston Overbey before Florida chose to intentionally walk designated hitter Zach Kirksey to get to Senquez Golson. With the bases loaded and a modified infield defense with five defenders after adding an outfielder, Wahl came home on a grounder down the first base line from Golson and scored safely when the throw was off the mark and gave the Rebels the win.

Pitching Depth

Bianco said they are looking for a few more arms to step up, and he believes they will. He said there are challenges getting pitchers ready for relief roles and midweek games. But that's always the case.

"I like the guys," he said. "Because of how young we are and how new we are, there are going to be some hiccups. That's part of it. I think overall they've done great. I think we have a lot more options than we've had. We're halfway through the regular season at 28 games, and the good news is we've had a lot of options and a lot of guys have been out there. And they'll continue to develop."

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