College Baseball Headliner

Ole Miss and Georgia have been two of the SEC's best baseball programs this decade. They'll battle it out again this weekend for three games as the two contenders try to claim a conference title in a month.

Rebel head coach Mike Bianco said this weekend should indeed be special.

"Certainly you try to go the one game at a time thing and all the proverbial phrases," he said. "But it is exciting. It's always exciting to play at home. It's going to be great weather. The weekend sets up nice, it's not spring break, and it seems like everything is just right with Double Decker going on. With all the things the marketing department has scheduled with the fireworks and the celebration all make for a big weekend."

Then, of course, there is baseball, and Bianco is sure his team is focused on that and not the hype surrounding the important series.

"And we're playing the No. 1 team in the SEC," he said of the current league standings. "It's big, and it's a chance to make up some ground."

Georgia is 32-9 overall and 13-5 in the SEC, and the Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 nationally. The Rebels are 30-11 and 11-7 and are ranked 11th in the country.

The two programs did not meet many seasons prior to 1986. There was an East-West schedule in the SEC until that season, and Ole Miss-Georgia didn't become a regular until the SEC went to a one-league format in 1986. Now teams play 10 of the 11 schools each year in baseball.

The Rebels have experienced success against the Bulldogs under Bianco as Ole Miss holds an 11-8 record in the series over the last eight seasons. Ole Miss has won all three series played in Oxford and posted a 6-3 record in those games - winning each series 2-1. The Rebels have been swept once in the series in 2004 in Athens and posted one sweep in 2006 in Athens.

Ole Miss and Georgia has been a tightly contested series through the years as the teams enter this weekend with the all-time record tied at 29-29. The two teams have played 58 times with the first meeting in 1929.

Pitching matchups as listed on the Ole Miss official sports website are as follows:

FRIDAY, 6:30 P.M.

UGA - Trevor Holder, Sr., RHP (3.88, 6-2)

OM - Drew Pomeranz, Soph., LHP (3.59, 4-1)

NOTING POMERANZ: Sophomore left-hander Drew Pomeranz makes his ninth-start of the season when he takes the mound against Georgia on Friday night. The southpaw is coming off his first complete-game of his career at #20 Florida last weekend where he held the Gators to two runs on four hits with a career-high nine strikeouts. On the year, Pomeranz has limited opponents to 17 earned runs on 38 hits with 43 strikeouts and 20 walks. Opponents are hitting .236 against the lefty.

SATURDAY, 4:00 P.M.

UGA - Alex McRee, Jr., LHP (2.19, 4-0)

OM - Phillip Irwin, Jr., RHP (3.57, 5-3)

NOTING IRWIN: Phillip Irwin will draw the start for the Rebels on Saturday and make his ninth start of the 2009 campaign. The junior is coming off back-to-back losses, but has pitched well this season as he has struck out 36 and walked only 12. Irwin has allowed 21 earned runs on 59 hits and worked a team-high 53.0 innings. Opponents are hitting at a .280 clip with Irwin on the mound.

SUNDAY, 1:30 P.M.

UGA - Justin Grimm, Soph., RHP (4.12, 2-2)

OM - Scott Bittle, Sr., RHP (2.33, 4-2)

NOTING BITTLE: Scott Bittle makes his fifth start of the season - all in Southeastern Conference play - when he takes the field on Sunday. In his time as a starter, Bittle has posted a 3-0 record with a 1.29 ERA. The senior has struck out 38 and walked only 10 in that time while allowing only four earned runs on 13 hits. He pitched a complete-game shutout with a career-high 13 strikeouts and no walks against Kentucky to complete the sweep for the Rebels.

Here are some notes on Georgia from the Bulldogs athletics website:

The Bulldogs have a 1.5 game lead over Arkansas with four SEC series remaining while Ole Miss is tied with LSU for second in the West, a half-game back of Arkansas.

Georgia went 1-1 in its midweek games this week, beating Kennesaw State 11-7 on Tuesday with seven home runs including three by Rich Poythress. The Bulldogs traveled to Jacksonville State on Wednesday and fell to the Gamecocks 9-7, snapping a nine-game road winning streak.

This weekend's series features two of the top pitching staffs in the SEC as Georgia is second in the conference with a 3.89 team ERA while Ole Miss is third with a 4.02.

Ole Miss has won seven out of the eight series played against the Bulldogs in Oxford. Georgia's lone win was a sweep in 1989, and the Rebels took two out of three in 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2005 and 2007.

First baseman Rich Poythress regained the nation's RBI lead after driving in four runs Tuesday against Kennesaw State and one against Jacksonville State. Poythress now has 67 RBI, one ahead of Texas State's Paul Goldschmidt. Poythress is ranked in the top two in the SEC in eight statistical categories including first in batting average, RBI, on-base percentage, runs and total bases and second in slugging percentage, hits and home runs. Tuesday against Kennesaw State, Poythress was 4-for-4 with three home runs, a double, and walk. He became the sixth Bulldog to hit three home runs in a game and first since Jeff Keppinger in 2001.

Over the last six games, Colby May is Georgia's leading hitter, batting .476 (10-for-21) with two home runs and a double. He is fourth in the league this season in batting and second among freshmen. May also has the SEC's fourth-highest on-base percentage.

In the last six games, Matt Cerione is batting .471 (8-for-17) with two home runs and three doubles. He had walk-off hits in Georgia's wins over Arkansas on Friday and Saturday of last week. His one-out single in the bottom of the ninth scored Johnathan Taylor from second on Friday, and he roped a one-out double down the right field line to score Miles Starr from first on Saturday to give the Bulldogs another 4-3 win over the Razorbacks. He hit .417 (5-for-12) in the series with three doubles and three RBI. Cerione and May have homered in each of the last two games.

The Georgia bullpen is a combined 12-2 with a 4.16 ERA this season with 171 strikeouts in 175.1 innings. The bullpen allowed just one run on four hits in 7.2 innings last weekend against fifth-ranked Arkansas. Overall the Georgia pitching staff is second in the SEC with a 3.89 team ERA.

Dean Weaver has given up just two earned runs in his last 12 outings and 13.1 innings and has earned six saves in that span. Weaver leads the SEC in saves in league contests and in games finished.

Will Harvil leads the SEC with 24 appearances this season and is 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA. Jeff Walters has not allowed a hit or run in his last three appearances and 6.0 innings.


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