The #11 Rebels road trip continues tonight as they begin a three-game series with the #19 Kentucky Wildcats.
After dropping a mid-week matchup with Memphis 2-1, Ole Miss is still searching for answers at the plate. In their last 13 games, the Rebels have been held to 2 runs or fewer nine times. While they’ve been able to win a few games, this isn’t a recipe for sustained success as conference play heats up. If Ole Miss relies too heavily on their pitching staff (which has been superb) and doesn’t see increased production from the offense, they will get burned later in the season.
The Rebels will have to score runs against this Kentucky team that has managed to score 67 runs over their last seven games. After a 10-run, 10-hit performance in a Sunday win over Vanderbilt, Ole Miss managed just one run on five hits over the Tigers. The Rebels inconsistency will doom them this weekend if they can’t correct the problem. Sometimes, the problem can’t be told through statistics; this is not one of those times. Six of the usual Rebel starters are hitting below .260, and Will Golsan is the only player at the .300 mark.
My prediction for players to have a breakout series are Cole Zabowski, who showed the promise of a talented hitter early on, and Ryan Olenek. Olenek isn’t slumping, but at .270 he certainly can be better. An emotional leader of the team, he can put a jolt in the rest of the lineup if he can put together a strong weekend at the plate.
The trip to Houston last weekend was the first time we’ve seen the Rebel pitching staff get roughed up. Other than a 1-0 gem from David Parkinson, both Brady Feigl and Will Ethridge were unable to shut down the Commodores. James McArthur (0-1, 1.76) will return to the rotation tonight after missing the last two weeks with a forearm injury. Parkinson (4-1, 2.03) will try to bounce back from last weekend’s loss on Friday night. Saturday’s starter has yet to be announced.
In opposition to the Rebels woes at the plate, the Wildcats have plenty of offense to go around. Six Wildcats are hitting above .300, and are hitting a collective .328. In what should be an intriguing matchup, the Rebels lead the SEC in nine pitching categories, and Kentucky leads the conference in 10 different offensive categories. With a 2.68 ERA, the Rebels staff will aim to shut down an offense that has scored 187 so far this season.
The Wildcats’ Thursday starter, Sean Hjelle, is the reigning SEC pitcher of the week, but with a 4.99 ERA on the year, he isn’t unhittable. The Wildcats will put a lefty on the mound tomorrow night, as Zach Logue (3-1, 2.43 ERA) steps on the mound. Justin Lewis (3-1, 3.07) will get the start on Saturday morning for Kentucky.
Tonight’s game will begin at 6 p.m. Tomorrow’s first pitch is set for 5:30 p.m. while Saturday’s matchup will move to the morning at 11 a.m.
The series will be televised on SEC Network and SEC Network+ (app) and will be broadcasted on the Ole Miss Radio Network along with OleMissSports.com.
A few clouds will follow the Rebels to Lexington, but rain shouldn’t be an issue with low percentage chances both today and Saturday.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.