Marquee Matchup

The most anticipated baseball series of the season so far is upon us as defending national champion LSU has arrived. A Sunday win at South Carolina and a midweek win against Southern Mississippi have pushed Ole Miss into the weekend for this headliner.

Tonight's 7 o'clock pitching matchup – Drew Pomeranz for the Rebels and Anthony Ranaudo for the Tigers – is drawing attention from basically every Major League Baseball team. There will potentially be more scouts here tonight than ever before at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field. There could also be some general managers of MLB teams in attendance.

Ranaudo will mark his sixth start of the season after missing four starts early in the year with a stress reaction in his throwing elbow. He turned in his longest outing of the season last Friday in a win over Alabama, limiting the Crimson Tide to three earned runs on five hits in six innings with three walks and a season-high eight strikeouts.

Ranaudo is 2-0 on the year with a 3.00 ERA, 10 walks and 22 strikeouts in 21 innings of work.

Pomeranz has been sensational this season, 6-0 with a 1.38 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 58.2 innings.

ESPN.com has a story on their website that says the first two pitchers likely chosen in the June draft will face off tonight in Oxford.

"It's going to be a very exciting weekend, beginning on Friday with two starting pitchers that could go among the top 10 picks in the draft," said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. "We're looking forward to going into a hostile environment and competing at a high level against a great team. It's going to be lot of fun for anyone who loves college baseball."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco is taking a little different approach, especially the big matchup on Friday between the two aces.

"From a fans' perspective, it's probably a marquee matchup with two of the best pitchers in the country going at it," he said. "From my standpoint, we're just trying to win the game."

The Rebels had done that every Friday night from the first weekend of the year, when they lost to Louisiana-Monroe, until last weekend when they lost at South Carolina.

At 25-13 overall and 8-7 in the Southeastern Conference, the Rebels will be attempting to work their way back into the mix. Ole Miss is currently tied for third with Auburn in the SEC West.

Anthony Ranaudo

LSU is 32-6 overall and 11-4 in the West and in second place behind Arkansas, which is 12-3.

Bianco said LSU looks every bit the part of another national contender this season.

"They look good," he said. "You look at them offensively, and right now they look as they did last year numbers-wise. They hit for power, they hit for average, they steal bases, they field. Their pitching numbers are probably a bit higher than he would probably want.

"But that may have to do with the fact that their ace (Ranaudo) has missed four or five weeks. If you put his numbers the way he's capable of pitching into that, it's probably pretty good pitching numbers. They're a team that's got a lot of talent and is playing well."

Pomeranz said he's excited about the matchup. But ever the level-headed competitor, it's hard to tell if it's LSU he's pitching against or Oakland, although he knows how big it is for all concerned.

"It's always a fun weekend," Pomeranz said of LSU weekend and also the big crowds associated with it. "I was telling somebody the other day when I think about this weekend, I think about my freshman year here. There were people everywhere, on the streets, it was crazy, awesome. It's the best weekend."

Pomeranz, who pitched Ole Miss to a 7-4 Friday night win in Baton Rouge last year, said he didn't feel the crowds down there matched the ones in Oxford for the series.

"It was pretty rowdy, I guess, but nothing like here," said Pomeranz, who went seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits, with five strikeouts and three walks last year against the Tigers.

Pomeranz and Ranaudo were both drafted by the Texas Rangers out of high school and both chose college. But they are poised to have long, successful professional careers in the future barring unforeseen situations beyond their control.

"I try to look at (tonight) as the same (as every Friday night)," Pomeranz said. "But I can't deny that it actually does pump me up a little more, especially having LSU at home. It's awesome. I can't wait. There's going to be like a million people here."


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