After sweeping Alabama last weekend and improving to 20-12 on the season, the Rebels will travel to Hattiesburg tonight for a rematch against No. 16 Southern Miss.
The last time Ole Miss and the Golden Eagles faced off, the result was a 12-inning spectacle that culminated in Rebels pitcher Jason Barber’s game-winning run in the last inning. That matchup, which took place exactly a week prior to Tuesday’s rematch, also saw the Rebels overcome a four-run deficit to secure extra innings and the eventual 5-4 win.
Head coach Mike Bianco and his team will need a number of crucial variables to go their way if the Rebels hope to replicate the success they found in last week’s head-to-head. Here’s an early look at what to watch Tuesday night:
When these teams met last week, both offenses exploded. The Rebels and the Golden Eagles have shown consistently tough pitching throughout their respective schedules, but another hitting clinic is not out of the question.
Many of the runs last week could be traced back to mistakes on the mound. Southern Miss alone gave up five pitching errors and allowed the game-winning run to score on a wild pitch. Ole Miss added another four errors from pitching, each helping to set up runs early in the game. Whether the pitchers find a new tempo Tuesday night or simply relapse into the same pattern of miscues from their previous outing, pitching will make the difference between winning and losing.
If the pitchers settle down and perform at their normal level of play, it will be up to the batters to adapt and take control of the game.
While Ole Miss has improved its hitting lately, it’s also struck out more frequently. Ole Miss appears to have adapted a much more aggressive approach at the plate. For better or worse, Bianco and his players are willing to swing for the fences, with their backs against the wall.
The increase in offensive aggression should help the Rebels’ cause, but a lack of efficiency must be carefully managed. Ole Miss will have to improve its execution but maintain the same level of intensity to take Southern Miss down a second time.
Pay attention to how the Rebels adjust to playing on the Golden Eagles’ turf in Hattiesburg. The Rebels are just 1-3 away, while the Golden Eagles boast a 17-3 record at home. In such an evenly contested match between two talented intra-state squads, any advantage, no matter how big or small, could make the difference.
It will be up to Ole Miss to clean up its pitching mistakes, maintain offensive tenacity and increase efficiency at the plate if it wants a shot at dropping Southern Miss again. The Golden Eagles will be out for blood and, with a home crowd behind them, will do everything in their power to keep Ole Miss from walking away victorious.