Testing The Tide

Two weekends remain in the regular season. Ole Miss wants to improve its standing nationally and host another NCAA Regional. Alabama wants to win some more games and get to the SEC Tournament in Hoover.

The two SEC West foes meet for three games this weekend in Tuscaloosa. Ole Miss (35-15 overall, 15-9 SEC) is coming off a series loss to Arkansas. Alabama (29-20, 10-14) lost two of three to Florida last weekend.

This midweek, the Rebels beat Arkansas State 5-2, while the Crimson Tide fell 8-7 to Samford.

Drew Pomeranz suffered his first loss of the season against six wins last week against Arkansas. He took a ball off his leg from a Razorback hitter early in the Friday night contest. He also battled a slight strain of a pec muscle for a couple of weeks.

This week, however, the Rebel ace says he's ready and feeling fine.

"I didn't feel the pec at all," he said this midweek after throwing a bullpen. "I think it's mainly a mechanical thing. This late in the year you have to refine everything. My arm drags a little bit, and that strains and pulls the pec. I just worked on my mechanics some to not let my arm drag. I didn't feel any pain at all."

That's a good thing for the Rebels. Pomeranz has been among the SEC's and the nation's best this season. The left-handed junior ranks second nationally in strikeouts (112), third in strikeouts per nine innings (13.49) and 17th in ERA (2.17). He leads the SEC in ERA (2.17), opponents average (.183) and strikeouts (112).

Pomeranz's velocity was also a bit down last Friday night, but he isn't alarmed by it. He actually planned it that way.

"Mostly I wasn't trying to throw hard. I was more focused on being smooth," he said. "I was more worried about pitch location."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said Pomeranz looked as good as ever this week in his bullpen.

"He didn't throw very long, but he threw hard and he threw 100 percent," said Bianco, who owns a 17-13 record against Alabama as a head coach. "He hit 90, which is good for a bullpen. He was mostly in the upper 80s and hit 90 a couple of times. He looked sharp and had no pain. Last Friday and the Friday before, he felt something. The last few days, he's felt nothing at all. So that's good news."

The Rebels hope to have Matt Snyder back in the lineup. With the shoulder injury and also a fever from an infection, the power-hitting sophomore has been out of the lineup since last Friday.

Alabama will counter Friday night with sophomore left-hander Adam Morgan, with a 5-3 mark and a 6.23 ERA.

The Crimson Tide, which began the season winning 16 of its first 17 games, has become a better offensive team lately, especially with the home run ball. Alabama has 26 homers in its last 14 games and 49 for the season.

Mitch Gaspard is in his first season as head coach of the Tide, taking over for veteran Jim Wells, who retired. Former Ole Miss assistant coach Kyle Bunn is the pitching coach for Gaspard. Bunn left Ole Miss following the 2007 season for Clemson, where he spent two seasons.

"It will be another tough SEC weekend," said Ole Miss senior pitcher Rory McKean. "Alabama is a team that can swing it. They've got Coach (Kyle) Bunn over there working with their pitchers. We know they'll be similar to us, so we'll have to be ready."

Gametimes are 6:35 p.m. today, 3:05 p.m. Saturday, and 2:05 p.m. Sunday. The Saturday contest will be televised on ESPN2.

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