Ole Miss got a much-needed victory against Southern Mississippi Tuesday night in Jackson – for all the right reasons.
It meant the Rebels won the series 2-1 this season. It meant positive media attention all over the state. It gave the Rebels the opportunity to pitch a lot of folks – seven to be exact – to get them more live experience.
Most importantly of all right now, however, it gave them a much-needed lift and renewed confidence heading into an important SEC series with Georgia in Oxford beginning today at 6:30 p.m.
"We've talked about it as a team," said Mark Wright, whose two-run home run in the third inning in Jackson extended Ole Miss' lead to 5-0 in the 8-3 win. "This is where we turn the corner. We need to start putting some more wins up. That way we'll be back at the top of the standings in the race for the West."
Stephen Head agrees, and says some of the team's confidence heading into Georgia comes from the fact that more pitchers have stepped up recently.
"We've seen some guys lately who can come in and get some outs," he said. "We've been needing more guys to come in and throw strikes. That gives us some momentum heading into Georgia."
Ole Miss is now 25-12 overall and 7-8 in the SEC. The Bulldogs are 20-16 and 5-9.
Georgia comes limping in, much like they did last year when the Rebels played them in Athens. Ole Miss was 11-4 in SEC play and in first place at the time and the Bulldogs were 6-9. Three games later those marks were 11-7 for UM and 9-9 for Georgia.
Ole Miss hosted an NCAA Regional, while Georgia made it all the way to Omaha.
This is the time of year that a lot of teams seem to turn their seasons one way or the other. For example, in addition to what Georgia did starting this time last year, South Carolina was 7-8 (as the Rebels are currently) and made it to Omaha.
Vanderbilt was 7-8, won the NCAA Regional at Virginia, and played in the Super Regional at Texas. LSU was 8-7 and made it to the College World Series.
Coach Mike Bianco said the Rebels have a lot of time to play better, but it needs to start now.
"It's time for us to play well and turn the corner," he said. "We need to start playing our best baseball. The good news is I don't think we've played our best baseball yet. I don't think we've pitched our best baseball yet. I don't think we've hit as well as we can. Defensively we have been strong all year. We need for the pitching and the offense to click at the same time. We have 15 SEC games left. We need to win as many as we can."
Some notes on Georgia:
*Georgia (20-16) won its second SEC series of the year against Mississippi State lasst weekend and now owns a 5-9 league mark, which is where it stood a year ago when it began a school record 12-game SEC winning streak en route to a share of the 2004 SEC title (actually started at 6-9).
*After two SEC home series, the Bulldogs now get on a bus for the next couple of weeks, heading to Ole Miss (25-12, 7-8 SEC) Friday and then to Western Division leader Alabama (25-12, 9-6 SEC) April 29-May1. In records dating back to 1950, Georgia leads the series with the Rebels 23-18 including a three-game sweep in Athens last season. Georgia last won a series over Ole Miss in Oxford in 1989 when it posted a three-game sweep. The Bulldogs won a single game in 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2001 in Oxford. The Rebels dropped two of three this past weekend at #12 LSU. Ole Miss is 16-5 at home this year.
*For the second week in a row, junior LHP Will Startup (3-2, 2.68 ERA, 5 SV) closed on Friday and started on Sunday. He picked up his fifth save in Friday's 5-1 win over #21 Miss. State and then pitched a season-high 6.2 innings but did not figure in the decision Sunday. Startup is tied for the team lead in wins and has a team-best 2.68 ERA in 16 appearances including two starts. In 40.1 innings, he has 26 strikeouts and only six walks.
*Junior RHP Michael Hyle (3-2, 3.86 ERA) earned his second consecutive Friday night SEC win over a ranked opponent, this time beating #21 Miss. State with 8.1 IP, scattering six hits and one run with two walks and four strikeouts in Georgia's 5-1 victory. Hyle carried a shutout to the ninth before MSU struck for a run on a hit, an error and a sacrifice fly. On April 8, Hyle beat then #5 Florida 5-2. For the year, Hyle has 38 strikeouts and only 18 walks in 49 IP. He owns a 17-5 career record.
*Sophomore slugger Josh Morris (.277-7-28) broke out of a 1-for-32 slump this past Sunday by going 3-for-4 with two doubles and a home run in Georgia's series clinching win over Miss. State. For the first time all season, Morris did not bat in the cleanup spot but instead batted seventh in the order Sunday. Also, junior Bobby Felmy (.308-4-22) batted leadoff for the first time this year, and he responded by going 2-for-4 with a go-ahead two-run home run in the seventh. Morris and Felmy are the only two Bulldogs to start all 35 games. Felmy has been the starter in right field while Morris has 30 starts at first base and five at third base.
SEC East's Bulldogs are in town
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