On The Plains

Three weekends of SEC baseball remain and for the Ole Miss Rebels, the push through May begins tonight at Auburn.

The seventh-ranked Rebels and host Tigers get together for three games – at 6 p.m. today and Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Ole Miss is 33-13, having split two games this week since taking a home series with Georgia last weekend. Auburn is 27-19 and won two games during the midweek against Troy. The Tigers are 8-13 in SEC games.

The Rebels are 13-8 in SEC contests, which puts them in third place in the SEC West and in a tie for fourth overall with Florida, which is also 13-8. Ole Miss has a tiebreaker over the Gators since the Rebs won two of three games at Florida.

LSU, which beat Ole Miss two of three games, and Georgia, which fell to Ole Miss two of three, are tied atop the league at 14-7. Arkansas, with a rainout on its ledger, is 13-7. The Rebels and Razorbacks meet in two weeks in Fayetteville to wrap up the regular season.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said Auburn is a good team that is improving.

"Obviously their forte' is that they can hit the homer," Bianco said. "They have a ton of home runs. There are some veteran guys on that team who can really hit it. They're having a good year (as a team), and they're in the thick of it. It's a big weekend for us."

The Tigers are hitting .295 as a team and have tallied 97 home runs. They are leading the nation in home runs hit this season.

Joseph Sanders leads the Auburn batters with a .329 average, with 18 home runs and 54 RBI. The Tiger pitching staff holds an ERA of 6.12 and has 342 strikeouts on the year while walking 192 batters. They have allowed 320 runs on 536 hits this season as opponents hit .322 against Auburn.

Auburn will use the same starting rotation that it sent out to the mound last weekend in Baton Rouge, starting R-Fr. RHP Jon Luke Jacons (3-3, 5.75 ERA) on Friday, So. LHP Grant Dayton (2-4, 5.06) on Saturday and Fr. RHP Dexter Price (3-1, 5.06) on Sunday.

Ole Miss will counter with So. LHP Drew Pomeranz (4-2, 3.49), Jr. RHP Phillip Irwin (5-3, 4.01) and Sr. RHP Scott Bittle (5-2, 2.17).

Pomeranz takes the mound against the Tigers on Friday night with a 4-2 record and a 3.49 ERA as he has struck out 51 and walked 22 on the season. In his last start against Georgia, Pomeranz suffered the loss as he allowed three runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings of work. Pomeranz struck out eight in the outing and left the game with one man on who went on to score with a grand slam three batters later. It will be Pomeranz' 10th start of the year. Opponents are hiting .242 against Pomeranz.

Irwin makes his 10th start of the season and 11th overall appearance when he takes the mound for the Rebels on Saturday. To date, Irwin has posted a 5-3 record and worked a team-leading 58.1 innings. In that time he has struck out 39 and walked 13 while allowing only 26 earned runs out of 35 runs scored with Irwin on the mound.

Bittle enters the weekend making his sixth start of the season since moving to the starting role against LSU on March 29. In that time, Bittle is 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA and has held opponents to a .153 batting average against with only five runs allowed on 18 hits. On the season, Bittle has posted 68 strikeouts to lead the team and walked 22 batters. He is 5-2 on the season with three saves and a complete-game shutout of Kentucky.

"This is a huge weekend for us. There are nine conference games left to play and there is a lot of moving and seeding yet to be had," said Auburn head coach John Pawlowski, in his first year with the Tigers after a successful nine-year stint as head coach at College of Charleston. "Ole Miss is playing well. They went to Florida and won two-out-of-three there. They won a series against Georgia at home where they drew 27,000 people, which is absolutely incredible. When you look at them and what they have on paper, and what they bring to the table on the mound, it will be a challenge for us and we will have to be ready to play this weekend."

The Saturday and Sunday games will be televised live on CSS.


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