Big City Baseball

Ole Miss heads to Memphis for a game tonight against the Tigers at AutoZone Park. The Rebels’ Southeastern Conference record is the same as this time last season, 4-5. Their non-conference record is as average as it's been in a long time, 10-9.

So at 14-14, which is the halfway point of the overall season, Ole Miss needs some wins. They’ll try to move above .500 tonight.

A repeat of last season’s meeting at the St. Louis Cardinals’ AAA ballpark would be welcomed relief for a Rebel team that is trying to find its way. Ole Miss won the 2014 game in Memphis by a 9-1 score.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said while the team has shown signs of improvement, they still aren’t where they need to be.

“We’ve got a long ways to go. We’re not there yet,” he said Monday. “We can be there on a given night. We’re still inconsistent and we still don’t play well enough. The truth is we have to play better. Better offensively. Better defensively. We have to be better than we’ve been. If we play well, we’ll be OK. We were 4-5 (in the SEC) last year as well.”

Tennessee in Oxford is up next in conference play. That’s this weekend. For now, Memphis is the challenge.

The Tigers enter Tuesday's contest with an impressive 17-6 record after taking two-of-three from Houston to begin American Athletic Conference play. Memphis also split a pair of midweek games with Arkansas last week.

Memphis boasts a team ERA of 2.45 and has outscored the opposition a combined 127-66. The Tigers play the majority of their home games at FedEx Park on their campus, but the matchup with the Rebels is one of three games played at AutoZone Park.

Four Tigers are hitting over .300, led by a .356 clip from Kane Barrow. Tucker Tubbs provides plenty of pop at the plate as the team's leader in doubles (9), home runs (3) and RBI (24).

Sophomore left-hander Evan Anderson is scheduled to start for Ole Miss tonight. Alex Gunn, a senior left-handed pitcher with a 2-0 record and a 1.00 ERA, is the probable Memphis starter. He's pitched 18 innings this season, and opponents are only hitting .190 against Gunn.

Anderson has a 1-3 record and a 6.43 ERA. He has pitched in eight games this season and had five midweek starts. He picked up his lone win early this season against Arkansas State in Oxford, allowing just one run on two hits over five innings.

“I’d say Arkansas State was my best outing, and that was my first start (this season),” Anderson said. “I was filling up the zone with all three pitches for strikes.”

According to Anderson he’s hit a plateau of sorts currently.

“From a progress standpoint, I’d say I’m kind of at a standstill right now,” he said. “I’ve been working hard but haven’t found the success I’ve needed. Coach Lafferty has really been working with me. Coach Bianco has really been pushing to make my mechanics a little better, accuracy a little better. I need to find the zone a little better. I’m leaving stuff up. I’m just glad the defense is out there making plays, making the outs we need to get out of stuff. I’m glad they’re doing well.”

Anderson said he likes the midweek start since the games are so important.

“I feel confident where I am right now,” he said. “The midweek games can mentally be the toughest games we play. So I feel good about going out there during the midweek. We’ve got to get those wins. Really when it comes down to it, those are some big wins we need during the season.”

Bianco said the Rebels are getting some things done in several areas, but overall they aren’t putting it together as they must.

“We’ve faced three pretty good offenses (in SEC play),” he said. “The first two (LSU and Florida) people talked about because of their ranking and all of that. But Arkansas was a terrific offense. I told (Razorbacks head coach) Dave Van Horn after the game that was the best offensive team I’ve seen him have. And he agreed.”

Bianco said it’s apparent the team continues to not score enough runs because of a lack of timely hitting.

“You look at this team, before last weekend we were second in the conference in getting the leadoff guy on,” he said. “But we were at the bottom of the conference hitting. We get the guy on. We just don’t score him. We don’t put the hits together. We don’t get the double. We’re low with runners in scoring position, very low with runners at third base and less than two outs. Very low with two-out RBI. I think that happens when you’re not playing with a lot of confidence, got a lot of guys in the lineup that aren’t swinging well. We’re not getting a lot of good swings off when it means the most.”

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