By: Jeff Roberson
Ole Miss did some catching up last weekend with a sweep at home of the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Rebels are now 6-6 and back in the hunt, and 25-8 overall.
Wednesday night was a stumble this team hadn’t had in a couple of weeks. Southern Miss got the best of the Rebels 5-1. Starter James McArthur was one of the few highlights.
The freshman right-hander is 4-0 with eight appearances, seven starts and a 3.86 ERA. We’d heard all fall and in the preseason how good he could be. Since recovering from a foot injury in December, we’ve seeing that. He’ll figure in big the rest of the way this season, of course the postseason, and also the next couple of seasons.
Offensively the Rebels weren’t on, and that happens. But after a weekend of 39 hits and 29 runs against the Hogs, it was a bit surprising it was as much of a dropoff as it was.
On to Tuscaloosa.
The weekend starters are the same as they were last week at this point – Brady Bramlett, David Parkinson, and TBA. The latter turned out to be Wyatt Short last Sunday. It might not this Sunday, depending on how the first two games unfold. They’ll wait again to see how everything plays out.
Alabama is 20-13 overall and 6-6 in the SEC in their new digs. A massive renovation and expansion of Sewell-Thomas Stadium took place a year ago. The Crimson Tide played all its home games at the Hoover Met last year, about an hour up the road from campus.
Alabama will roll out Geoffrey Bramblett to start Friday night. The junior right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.39 ERA. On Saturday it’s Jake Walters, a sophomore righty with 2-3 record and a 2.44 ERA. The Tide knows who it will pitch Sunday, according to its press release, and that’s Nick Eicholtz, a junior right-hander who is 2-1 with a 2.51 ERA.
Alabama won its first two conference series, taking two of three from both LSU and Tennessee. However, the Tide dropped series at Georgia and Kentucky the past two weekends. Alabama won its midweek game this week, getting past UAB 7-6.
Chance Vincent paces the Bama bats with a .308 average and 20 RBI. Thomas Burrows is the team’s closer, ranking second in the SEC with eight saves. Burrows has not allowed a run in 10 appearances, spanning 12.1 innings, and holds opposing hitters to a .098 average.
So the winner of this series will have a winning conference mark, and the loser won’t. Pretty simple math when both are 6-6 and three games are on tap.
This Rebel team was so confident after its five-game win streak that we’ll see how the loss to the Golden Eagles affects things. Likely it won’t be a negative. The players know the SEC means you have to bounce back quickly.
This lineup of hitters, from Woodman and Bortles, to Robinson, Lartigue, Dishon, Golsan, Blackman, Cloyd, they’re veterans now. They understand SEC wars. Some played in the World Series two seasons ago. That’s too strong and seasoned a lineup not to expect good production like last weekend. Maybe not to that extent, since those numbers were pretty gaudy against the Hogs. But just continuing to be productive since they are capable.
With Auburn and LSU both in Oxford to round out April, if they can come home from Tuscaloosa with that winning league mark, they’ll be in great shape to make noise the rest of the way. Getting past the South Carolina and Mississippi State series meant there was a chance to do some things this month and next. Those two are proving to be among the best in the conference.
So when the short road trip to Tuscaloosa is through, the halfway point of league play will indeed be here. The Rebels were really good last weekend. Keeping that going is the goal tonight and the two days after that.