Downtown Baseball

One of the most anticipated non-conference games of the season is always the Ole Miss-Memphis baseball game played at Autozone Park. The annual clash in downtown Memphis is today at 6:30 p.m.

But it's more than a routine midweek game in one of the country's best minor league ballparks in great weather for the Rebels. They're currently going through one of those disturbing baseball stretches when losses are more frequent than wins. For good teams, those normally balance out.

Ole Miss overall stands a solid 23-10. But in their last six games, the Rebels are 2-4, even with a midweek loss last week to Arkansas-Little Rock at home.

The Rebels have already beaten Memphis once this season. Three Ole Miss pitchers combined to strike out 15 batters as the Rebs defeated the Tigers 7-2 on April 2 in Oxford.

The loss was Memphis' 13th-straight setback to the Rebels dating back to the 2004 season. Since the 1999 season, Ole Miss has claimed 21 of 24 games between the two neighborhood programs.

In the April 2 contest, Rebel starter Matt Tracy struck out 10, walked three and gave up three hits in five innings. He was relieved by Matt Crouse, who pitched just 1.1 innings but struck out three. Brett Huber and Eric Callender fanned one batter each.

Crouse gets the starting nod for the Rebels tonight. The sophomore left-hander in his first season at Ole Miss is 2-0 with three starts in nine appearances. He has a 2.61 ERA in 20.2 innings pitched.

At the plate this season, Ole Miss is hitting .300 collectively. Seven of the Rebels everyday players bat .300 or better. Zach Miller leads the ballclub with a .358 average and 35 RBI. Matt Smith, the Rebels home run leader with six, bats .356, while Tim Ferguson is third on the team with a .329 batting average. Ferguson paces the Ole Miss offense with 46 hits 15 stolen bases and nine doubles.

Memphis is 14-18 after dropping its first C-USA series versus East Carolina last weekend. The Tigers depend heavily on its offense that hits .305 with 28 home runs.

Memphis' top hitters combine for a .341 batting average, 127 runs and 114 RBI. Two-hole hitter Chad Zurcher leads the club with a .419 batting average, 57 hits, 38 runs and 15 stolen bases. Zurcher has hit safely in 23 of the last 24 contests, including recording a club-best 21 multi-hit performances. Senior Tyler Huelsing is second on the team, batting .366. He has clubbed a team-high 11 homers, while driving in 48 runs. He needs just five RBI to crack the program's top-10. Leadoff hitter Drew Martinez hits .358 and has reached base in 31 of the 32 games played this year.

Memphis pitchers have a 6.00 ERA. The Tigers, who currently have a 277 strikeouts, rank 16th nationally in strikeouts. Ryan Fraser's 60 strikeouts is tops on the staff. Reliever Dane Sharp had a career outing on Sunday and is second on the staff with a 4.20 ERA. Marcus Barnes will earn his first career start in 43 outings on Tuesday. The southpaw, who led the club in ERA a year ago, is 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in 10 appearances in 2010. He has 15 strikeouts in 11 innings.

Ole Miss holds a 93-52 edge in the series. The last Memphis win came on April 23, 2003, when it snapped a six-game skid with a 6-3 win over the Rebels in Oxford. Then-true freshman, now All-Pro kicker for the New England Patriots, Stephen Gostkowski kept the Rebels off the scoreboard in his three innings of work, allowing just one run and striking out three.

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