Early Evaluation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Ole Miss and Vandy play two games at noon Sunday, 7-innings each. Through 13 games, it's obviously still early in the season. We're still learning about this Ole Miss baseball team. What we've learned so far, however, are several things.

One is they appear to be able to handle some adversity. Certainly the conditions in their 9-3 win over Vanderbilt on Friday weren't conducive to a pleasant night at the ball park. But they made it through with some toughness teams must have to succeed.

I like the way the Rebels didn't get rattled when Vandy went up 2-0. Yes it was early in the game, but on a Friday night in that weather, often 2-0 is enough to at least get the home team headed toward victory. Especially when arguably the top Friday night guy in the SEC, in this case Mike Minor, is throwing for you.

But we saw what we would expect from some Rebel hitters. Like Logan Power and Zach Miller and Jeremy Travis. Power is becoming clutch like this team needs from the five-year veteran possibly on his way to first-team All-SEC, if he keeps rolling.

Miller has made some "wow" plays in his new spot at third, but his bat has been good so far. He doubled off Minor last night although it didn't produce any runs.

And Travis is a ballplayer. A solid outfielder, he's a competent and sound hitter who can come through at any time. Vandy has a green monster, Fenway Park style, in left. In left center the wall's a bit shorter toward Memorial Gym. Travis' important 3-run shot over it in the fourth may have been the biggest hit of the night.

Power's base-clearing 3-RBI double in the sixth all but put this one away, given the way the Rebel pitchers were handling Commodore hitters. But Travis' blast was the lift the Rebels needed to truly get going, and let Vandy know they had a battle on their hands.

Rory McKean walked too many but otherwise was effective allowing just a hit with two Ks. Jake Morgan, whose not-easily-rattled demeanor is terrific for a reliever, gave up one hit with no damage. Kyle Barbeck, one hit, two Ks, continues to look like a star in the making in the early-going.

Drew Pomeranz is a key for this team. The Rebels need the type performance he had Friday night. He needs to be the Friday night starter. He looked like one Friday night.

Drew didn't pitch the first weekend and was weathered out the second weekend. Maybe after his four-hit, five K, two earned run, four inning showing vs. the Commodores, he's back on schedule.

Jordan Henry stepped up Friday night. His leadoff bunt in the fifth and a single in the sixth contributed to those big scoring innings. The Rebels took advantage of the wet conditions and used their speed in certain situations. I recall at least three times when Vandy infielders fielded the ball and didn't even throw it because Rebel runners were beating it out. Two of them came in Jordan at-bats.

Evan Button being back is big. Kevin Mort continues to have quality at bats and effective shortstop play, the latter a downfall of last year's team. You know Tim Ferguson with one hit Friday night and Matt Smith with none will be better at the plate than that. Brett Basham had a hit and received the ball well in muddy conditions behind the plate.

Maybe the best thing about Friday night, along with the victory and the toughness the Rebs showed, is that Scott Bittle just hung out, tried to stay warm and dry, and let his teammates do the work in this one. Having him available and rested is a plus, obviously.

If Phillip Irwin, with some help from the bullpen, can pitch the Rebs to a game-two win, game three will be most interesting. Can Aaron Barrett be effective in a weekend start, or will the Rebels head to a series with Alabama in Oxford searching for a Sunday guy?

It's just 13 games, and the 10-3 Rebels could still lose this series. But there seems to be a confidence about them, a calmness that they'll get it done, good leadership from the vets, and some maturity from even the younger players.

Today they have to handle one of those situations only baseball of the big three sports has to deal with often. That's sitting around and waiting it out, and playing two short games Sunday.

I've seen some Rebel baseball teams not handle that type deal so well. I saw it some last year. TCU on the road comes to mind.

But this is SEC play, and the Rebels feel good about themselves after Friday night's dominant win against a foe they've had some real wars with the past few seasons.

Taking the series here could be quite a boost and obviously the start to league play the Rebels want, with a sweep the ultimate goal.

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