On Feb. 28, the Rebels played one of their worst defensive games of the season and fell to the Memphis Tigers by the final score of 9-6. Today, they get a chance for redemption as they travel up I-55 to Memphis to take on the Tigers once more. Coming off an SEC series win over Vanderbilt there are plenty of reasons to see the Rebels flipping the script on the Tigers and evening out the season series at one game apiece.
In the weekend series against Vanderbilt, the Rebels relied on their tremendous pitching staff for a 1-0 win on Friday night, but the rest of the weekend fell on the teams ailing bats. Unable to hit with any consistency, the Rebels dropped Saturday’s matchup 6-2. The game was the first in which the Rebels surrendered a run for the first time in five games, and it exposed the flaws of the Rebel offense. The first time a game was on their shoulders, they were unable to deliver.
Sunday’s matchup is where the team turned things around. Seven Rebels contributed to ten total hits. Being patient at the plate also led to four walks, and three Rebels reached base after getting hit by a pitch. While freshman Will Ethridge showed signs of vulnerability for the first time this season, he was picked up by his offense, something we hadn’t seen in recent weeks. If you would’ve told me before the game that Vanderbilt would score 8 runs and Ole Miss would’ve come out on top, I would’ve thought this change in the weather was getting to your head. Nevertheless, the Ole Miss offense scored 10 runs in their comeback effort and took the series. Did they play perfect? No, but showing some grit and finding ways to get on base is a step in the right direction.
Last time out against Memphis, the Rebels were able to pile up nine hits and 6 runs, but it was their defense that doomed them. Ole Miss committed a season-high four errors and continued to gift the Tigers chances throughout the game. Bright spots for Ole Miss were Tate Blackman’s 3-hit performance and Grae Kessinger’s 3-RBI. If the Rebels can channel their newfound offensive success with better defense this time around, they will fair far better than their last matchup with Memphis.
Sean Johnson will get the start for Ole Miss. Johnson missed the beginning of the season with a broken hand and missed most of the 2015 season after having Tommy John Surgery. He’s one of two seniors on this Rebel team and has pitched just one inning so far this season, a scoreless inning against Nicholls last week.
Memphis will put Jonathan Bowlan on the hill. The sophomore RHP is 2-2 on the year with a 6.10 ERA in 20.2 innings of work. One of those innings came in the first matchup with Ole Miss, where Bowlan surrendered three hits and two runs. With a .333 average, Andy Bowman leads the team at the plate. Bowman went 2-4 last time he faced Ole Miss. Since their win over the Rebels, the Tigers have been a mixed bag with a 7-5 record. They have won 3 of their last 4, so they are coming into this matchup on a hot streak.
First pitch from AutoZone Park is set for 6:30 p.m. The game will not be televised, so my suggestion is to listen to it on the Ole Miss Radio Network, put your TV on mute while on ESPN2 and watch Ole Miss basketball take on Georgia Tech in the NIT.
The Rebel road trip will continue on Thursday, as a three-game series with Kentucky begins. The Rebels will be back home for a Tuesday game against Arkansas State next week, leading up to a series with the Bulldogs from Mississippi Sate next weekend.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.