Analysis: Tough Road Stretch Begins
Ole Miss holds a record of 25-14 with an 8-7 conference record heading into this weekend's match up with USC.
SCOUTING OLE MISS: HITTING
The Henry brothers have led the way for the Rebels all year. Older brother Justin leads the team with a .417 average and is 14-19 stealing bases. Younger brother Jordan is right behind him with a .363 average and is 9-12 in the stolen base department.
The Henrys hit one and two in the order, and much like Auburn, Ole Miss relies on their first two guys to set the tone. Behind them is SS Zack Cozart, who's isn't your typical number three hitter. Cozart is hitting .342 with only three HRs. His speed has not only helped him steal nine bases this year, but also gives him great range in the field.
The man whose job it is to drive in these guys is third baseman Cody Overbeck. He leads the team with eight HRs and 33 RBIs.
By no means is Ole Miss a power team, but their speed and small ball force opposing teams to be perfect in the field. With only 32 HRs on the year, the Rebels know they have to get their leadoff guys on base. The Gamecock pitching staff knows the importance this weekend of getting the leadoff guy out to start each inning.
SCOUTING OLE MISS: PITCHING
Will Kline Jr. is without question the ace of the Rebels' staff. Kline is 4-1 on the year with his only loss coming to Alabama, even though he went seven and a third innings that night. Kline is a strikeout pitcher (79) and has a very lively fastball. He can get a little wild at times, so the Gamecocks will have to see which Kline shows up.
Kline will go head to head against Harris Honeycutt, which usually means he'll have to be at his best to get the win. Honeycutt will be looking to get back to his old self after receiving his first loss as a Gamecock last week at the hands of Auburn.
Lance Lynn will start on Saturday for the Rebels. Lynn is 3-3 this season and is another guy that relies on strikeouts to get outs. Lynn throws hard, and his 6-5, 260 pound frame allows him to try to intimidate opposing hitters.
The only left handed starter the Gamecocks will see this weekend is Nathan Baker. Baker is 5-1, but unlike Kline and Lynn, he uses location and relies on groundouts to get guys out. When Baker's off speed pitch is on, he's at his best. The crafty left hander will try to frustrate the Gamecock hitters by using the Tom Glavine method: away, away, away.
Scott Bittle leads a Rebel bullpen that at times can be shaky but can also be very good. Bittle has seven saves on the year and has appeared in 21 of the 39 games.
The Gamecocks will need to get to the bullpen on Friday if they want to wear them out. If Kline goes a long ways, Ole Miss has enough to challenge the Gamecocks all weekend.
Caption: James Darnell launches his team leading thirteenth home run of the year on Wednesday night against Clemson.
HOW TO WIN
Ole Miss is a very good team who should host a Regional when it's all said and done. Honeycutt, Hempy, and whoever starts on Sunday for the Gamecocks will have to get the leadoff guys out.
Look for Honeycutt to get back to his old self and possibly have his best performance yet.
The Gamecock hitters will be challenged this weekend, but if they can get up early in every game, this will force Ole Miss to not be able to run as much. Look for the hot hitting trio of Travis Jones, James Darnell, and Justin Smoak to come out swinging early in the count to try to rattle the Ole Miss starters.
The Gamecocks are always one of the best fielding teams in the country, and they'll have to be this weekend. It'll be important for Darnell to be on his toes at third base with the Rebel's ability to drop down bunts.
The fourth ranked Gamecocks will be the better team on the field this weekend, and if they can get early leads against the Rebels, they'll win. Look for Honeycutt and Hempy to pitch well, but if either one struggles with control, don't be surprised to see Tanner go to the bullpen early.
USC will need to win this series on the road in order to stay in the race for the East title. I expect that Carolina will win the first two games, but since they always seem to struggle against left handed, off speed pitchers, the Gamecocks will fall short of the sweep.
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