After a strong offensive showing Tuesday night against Arkansas Pine Bluff, Ole Miss will try to build on their success with a Military weekend series at home against the evenly matched Missouri Tigers. Missouri has the slight advantage over Ole Miss with a 26-12 record, compared to the Rebels’ 23-14. Still, both teams sit at just 7-8 in conference play.
While the Tigers and Rebels play in opposite divisions of the SEC, this series will be key for both squads in improving their SEC conference standing with less than a month left in the regular season. For Ole Miss to gain the edge in this tightly contested matchup, they will need to look out for these three x-factors over the course of the weekend.
Positive and Negative Momentum
While the Rebels are currently on a one-game win streak, their past three games have seen a marked improvement in overall play. After a brutal 15-2 defeat at the hands of LSU last Thursday, Ole Miss has gone 2-1 in the past three games with a four-home run victory over LSU and a 14 run showcase against Arkansas Pine Bluff. The Rebels’ lone loss saw Ole Miss come just one run from taking the series from No. 8 LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge.
Missouri is currently on a two-game losing streak. The two game hitch may seem inconsequential, but it could prove noteworthy seeing as the Tigers just escaped a seven-game drag in the beginning of April. To take this series, Ole Miss will need to replicate its recent offensive success and highlight the weaknesses that have plagued Missouri the past month.
Stopping the Long Ball
While Ole Miss has done well throughout the year to limit home runs, allowing just 24 on the season, they have seen the devastating effects that a home run off of just one miscue can create. This was more evident than ever in the Rebels’ 15-2 loss to LSU when an early-inning grand slam put the rest of the game out of reach for Ole Miss.
Defending against scenarios like this will be paramount for Ole Miss, especially since Missouri’s power-hitters Trey Harris and Brett Bond, with 11 and seven home runs respectively, are consistently swinging for the fences. To stop the damage that Harris, Bond or any other Tigers’ hitters might cause, the Rebels’ pitchers will need to play smart and head coach Mike Bianco will need to be ready to make mound replacements if performance starts floundering.
While it is usually in a team’s favor to play on their home field, this hasn’t proved true for the opponents of Missouri this season. The Tigers hold a very impressive 7-1 record while playing away this season, an unusual feat for a team playing high-caliber SEC teams in opposing territory. Ole Miss will need a strong showing to ensure the Tigers don’t improve their away-game winning streak any further.
Attempting to replicate their own recent successes, should the Rebels be able to protect from the devastating long-ball, expose Missouri’s weaknesses and remind the Tigers they are in fact playing in enemy territory, then Ole Miss should walk away with a slight advantage in an otherwise evenly matched SEC contest.