Ole Miss plays three baseball games at Georgia this weekend, beginning Friday night at 6 p.m. CT

The Rebels look to pickup another key conference series win against the Bulldogs in Athens.

By: Jeff Roberson

Remember when Errol Robinson was having a hard time at the plate and his batting average was under .200? That was a while back. The past 19 games the junior shortstop is batting .342. That’s but one reason the Rebels are making a move the second half of the season.

Remember last year when Tate Blackman struggled as a college freshman? This year, not so much. He’s reached base in 31 of the last 32 games. He is tied for the team lead in runs, second on the team in hits (55) and multi-hit games (15), while ranking third in RBI (31). Blackman’s another reason the Rebels are making a move the second half of the season.

The list goes on. Wyatt Short and Will Stokes, at the back end of the bullpen, have been dominant. J.B. Woodman, National Player of the Week last week and rightfully so, has played like a superstar recently.

Henri Lartigue is a threat every at-bat and has proven to be one of the team’s toughest competitors with his play behind the plate. He and Woodman have teamed up for some of the most dramatic plays of the season – center fielder to catcher. Lartigue is the team’s top hitter and leads all SEC catchers with a .340 batting average. In SEC play he’s batting .383. 

Junior Colby Bortles has 16 doubles so far in 2016, five more than his nearest teammate. His 16 doubles rank third among SEC sluggers and 34th nationally.

The depth of the Rebel pitching staff has been a real key. Dominant non-conference performances – they’ve only lost to Louisville, USM and MSU – have given the team a lot of games in the win column.     

Ole Miss is at Georgia this weekend, and on paper a series win seems likely for the visitors. But it’s baseball so anything is possible.

The Rebels are among the nation’s top ten in most polls and certainly in RPI, where they were sixth on Thursday. They sport a sparkling 34-12 record, which includes a 22-3 non-conference mark with only one of those remaining – at Arkansas State week after next.

 The Southeastern Conference mark is 12-9 and the Rebels have positioned themselves to host a NCAA Regional. But there’s work left to be done, like win four or five more conference games out of nine, depending on how things unfold these last three weekends for several teams.

At this point, it’s about getting more wins. But it’s always about getting more wins.

 Georgia’s overall record is 22-23. In SEC play the Bulldogs are 7-14. The home team this weekend would like to win enough games the rest of the way to not be one of two teams that doesn’t make the trip to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. Georgia would really have to do some winning to get in the conversation for a NCAA bid. 

One thing in the Bulldogs’ favor is they have played what is ranked as the No. 1 schedule in the country. Unfortunately for them they’ve struggled with it. Georgia is batting .250 with an ERA of 4.76 and fielding .967. In SEC action, the Bulldogs are hitting .257 with a 5.81 ERA and fielding .960. 

The Bulldogs’ leading hitters are junior outfielders Skyler Weber (.318, 10 SB) and Stephen Wrenn (.283-4-22, 10 SB) while the RBI leader is sophomore left fielder Keegan McGoverrn (.253) who also has a team-high 32 walks. Weber batted .500 (9-for-18) with three doubles and two RBI last week.

Wrenn ended Georgia's streak of consecutive solo home runs when he blasted a two-run shot at Vanderbilt last Saturday. The Bulldogs had hit 21 straight solo shots dating back to March 8. It had been 31 games since Georgia had hit a home run with someone on base. For the year, the Bulldogs have hit 31 home runs (26 solo).

The Rebels once again send to the mound their recent trio of weekend starters – Brady Bramlett (R-Jr., RHP, 6-2, 2.61 ERA), David Parkinson (So., LHP, 2-2, 2.38 ERA), and James McArthur (Fr., RHP, 5-0, 2.84 ERA).

 Georgia will start Robert Tyler (Jr., RHP, 3-4, 3.34 ERA) on Friday, Connor Jones (Jr., LHP, 5-4, 5.02 ERA) on Saturday, and the Bulldogs’ coaches aren’t sure on Sunday. So TBA that day for now.

Ole Miss and Georgia have only been fairly regular competitors on the baseball diamond the past 25 years or so. They had played each other prior to that. But in the old SEC East-West format, teams until the 1990s normally only played foes in their own division and didn’t cross over into the other division.

So the series record? Tied 37-37. If weather permits, one of the two will lead after three games this weekend.

If it’s Ole Miss with two or more wins coming home from Athens, then the Rebels will be just that much closer to one of their major goals – playing baseball at home in June.

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