Following Tuesday night’s win over Southern Miss, head coach Mike Bianco and his players will travel this weekend to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for a three-game slate against No. 8 LSU.
The Tigers currently sit one game back in the tightly contested battle for the top spot in the SEC West. Ole Miss lies two games back from the lead and desperately needs a strong showing at LSU to move up in the rankings as May and the SEC Tournament inch closer each week.
The Rebels are on a five-game win streak, and an away series win against SEC rival LSU would go a long way toward improving their conference standings. Here’s what to look for ahead of Thursday night’s matchup:
Maintaining offensive efficacy
While Ole Miss experienced an extended hitting slump midway through the season, its past five games hold plenty of promise. For Ole Miss to deal legitimate damage to the Tigers, it needs to channel the same focus and offensive mentality shown in the games against Southern Miss and Alabama this past week.
Improved offense could be credited, in part, to a readjustment of the batting order, allowing Nick Fortes and Tim Rowe to add their consistent hitting to the everyday lineup. While the two have the fewest at-bats in the lineup, they lead the team in batting average and have already added big runs and hits. Fortes and Rowe also boast three home runs on the year.
Bianco’s eye for the game helped place Fortes and Rowe in key batting positions to improve a floundering offense. The duo’s performances will be needed now more than ever as the remaining schedule includes some of the toughest teams in the nation. For Bianco and his team to come out unscathed, they will need a renewed commitment to offensive tenacity at the plate.
Stopping Deichmann’s bat
Rarely should a defensive game plan revolve around one player, but LSU outfielder Greg Deichmann is no ordinary player. Deichmann is tied for second in the SEC with 10 home runs this season and can influence the outcome of LSU’s games almost singlehandedly. The junior could wreak havoc on the pitching staff if his bat warms up early.
While the Rebels’ pitchers have been tough to play against this season, they’ve struggled to overcome early conceded runs. Deichmann will threaten the Rebels’ pitching squad regardless, but if Ole Miss can limit the destruction early, its chances of winning improve tenfold.
The Baton Rouge effect
The Tigers are an impressive 18-4 while playing at home, so the Rebels will need to be bring their A-game if their conference playoff hopes are to continue. While the home-field advantage could play a role against LSU, sound offensive execution and defensive control should trump all.
Maintaining offensive efficacy, limiting early game-changing plays and playing with enough confidence to overcome LSU’s home-field advantage should be enough to spur the Rebels on to victory.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 Thursday night.