Rebels Ready for Important Midweek Tilts

I have seen the following post on the board several times since Sunday and it couldn't be more accurate: "What a difference a week makes."

Last Monday, the Rebels were saying the Sunday win over Alabama could be the turning point, but most fans and also myself needed more proof. Well, Ole Miss supplied that proof with a 4-0 week. The sleepwalking seemed to still be present Wednesday against Memphis, but a big fifth inning turned around the game and kept the momentum rolling.

And then the weekend came.

If this is in fact a turning point, the middle to late inning of game one against Vanderbilt might be written down as the most important stretch of time this season. The Commodores held a two-run lead and were threatening to blow the series opener wide open. But Ole Miss turned to Scott Bittle and an excellent assortment of small ball to pull off the win. From that point forward, the Rebels ran roughshod over the ‘Dores.

It looked a lot like the team that was once 9-0.

Even more impressive was the different ways in which Ole Miss pulled off the wins. Game one was a back-and-forth battle, and the Rebels kept their composure and held on to the lead when it appeared. The highlights were thee consecutive, successful bunts and Bittle baffling Vandy for five innings.

Game two was complete domination on Ole Miss' part in the 8-0 shutout victory. Drew Pomeranz pitched seven scoreless innings and opened the eyes of the other 10 SEC teams in the process. The freshman has many tools and more raw talent than any other pitcher on the roster.

Offensively, the Rebels seized some insurance and didn't leave pressure on the pitchers to stay perfect, even though they did.

And then game three was significant in other ways. I have been critical of Ole Miss looking lethargic on Sundays, but the team came out against VU and scored early to set the tone. Cody Satterwhite was again serviceable in the Sunday slot, and the offense extended the lead and removed the doubt from the outcome.

Ole Miss is back to 18th in Baseball America and has erased the sour taste that was present for several weeks during the rough skid. This midseason homestand is incredibly important, and the Rebels are almost halfway through without a loss. South Alabama visits Oxford Tuesday and Wednesday before LSU visits for Red/Blue Weekend.

The Jaguars sit at 18-13 overall but have claimed seven of their last 10. USA's Lance Baxter (2-4, 8.51) will get the nod Tuesday. Due to the earlier struggles against midweek competition, these two games are extremely critical. 21-7 is what most teams shoot for in the nonconference, and Ole Miss has already dropped six games outside the league.

For momentum purposes, the Rebels need to avoid a setback and carry a seven-game streak into the weekend against a young, but talented LSU team. Nathan Baker will start for Ole Miss Tuesday and Phillip Irwin will get the ball Wednesday.

The Rebels should have a distinct advantage with Baker, and Wednesday is an important outing for Irwin. The sophomore has been banged around in most of his recent starts, including being pulled in the first inning last Wednesday against usually light-hitting Memphis.

Irwin may be pitching for his job tomorrow night, as Jake Morgan is a logical choice to receive an opportunity.

South Alabama doesn't pitch it very well in the midweek, so Ole Miss should be able to take advantage of some free passes and keep the offense rolling.

Extra Innings

Some telling numbers from Ole Miss' five-game win streak.

Batting averages: Team (.327), Jeremy Travis (.500), Michael Guerrero (.444), Zach Miller (.444), Matt Smith (.412), Fuller Smith (.389), Tim Ferguson (.238), Brett Basham (.059).

Basham has thrown out five of six runners attempting to steal and has also picked a runner off. Ole Miss is 5-5 in stolen bases.

The Rebels are fielding at a .979 clip.

Drew Pomeranz, Justin Cryer, Scott Bittle nor Nathan Baker has allowed a run during the win streak. Bittle has a .056 opponent batting average.

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