Rebels host Memphis in non-SEC finale

The Ole Miss Rebels will host the Memphis Tigers tonight at 6:30 as they wrap up non-confernece play for the 2006 season. Ole Miss is currently 18-7 in non-league games. The Rebels beat Memphis 8-4 earlier in the season at AutoZone Park.

The Memphis Tigers come to town tonight, and that always makes it fun for Mark Wright.

The Germantown High alum has several friends on the Tiger team, and that means this one is not just another non-conference game.

"I know several of their players, and some of them I went to high school with," said Wright, the junior right fielder for the Rebels. "It's a fun game for me and the other guys on the team from the Memphis area. It's a good midweek game that I get pumped up for and enjoy playing in. There are some bragging rights there, too."

Those rights have all belonged to Wright and his teammates lately in this series. The Rebels have won five straight games against the Tigers, including an 8-4 win at AutoZone Park earlier this season.

"Hopefully we can play well and have the same results against them as we did earlier in the year," said Wright, batting .297 with nine home runs, 15 doubles, and a triple as well as 49 RBI. "That would give us some momentum heading into the Mississippi State series this weekend."

Several other diamond Rebs are from the Memphis area including Zack Cozart, Cody Overbeck, Alex Kliman, Devin Hicks, Phillip Irwin, and Zach Miller.

Wright was recruited by the Tigers, but that was under a previous regime. Dave Anderson was the head coach then, and now Daron Schoenrock manages the Memphis ballclub.

"They talked to me a good bit, but I knew I wanted to come here," said Wright, with a lot of Ole Miss roots in his family. "Nothing against their program, but I wanted to play in the SEC. I'd been coming down here since I was a little kid. I've always been a Rebel fan."

Which in baseball is a good thing to be right now as the Rebels have locked up a fourth straight bid to the Southeastern Conference Tournament and are ranked this week as high as 18th in the country at 33-19 overall and 15-12 in SEC play.

"Taking the last two against Arkansas was big after getting pounded on Friday night, and now we've got our confidence back," Wright said. "We know it will be fun this weekend, but we have to take care of this game (with Memphis) first."

The Tigers are 27-25 on the season and 10-11 in Conference USA action after beating Central Florida three times this past weekend.

Junior LHP Craig Rodriguez (3-3, 5.16 ERA, 16 appearances, 7 starts, 2 complete games, 66.1 innings pitched) will start for the Rebels. The Memphis starter was TBA late Monday.

Adam Amar leads the Tigers at the plate with a .392 average and 53 RBI. Bill Moss is the team leader and Conference USA leader in doubles with 22. Will Petersen has been the Tigers' top batter with 73 hits. He has the most hits by a Tiger since Florida Marlin second baseman Dan Uggla posted 81 in 2001.

Kyle Norrid, a former teammate of Wright's at Germantown High, picked up his pace with a solid weekend at UCF. The junior third baseman is now batting .324 and is tied for second on the team with 39 RBI. Joey Lieberman blasted his team-leading 11th home run of the year in Sunday's 11-3 Tiger win over the Knights.

Rebel sophomore second baseman Justin Henry continues to lead Ole Miss in batting at .344 with one home run, 10 doubles, and three triples. He's got 23 RBI and an onbase percentage of .401 in the leadoff spot, with 17 stolen bases in 19 attempts.

"Hopefully our offense will come out (tonight) and swing it and get things rolling," Wright said. "We need to play well and win this game."

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