Struggling ULM Warhawks visit Oxford for midweek series

Posted on May 2 2017 - 8:00am by Ethan Wright
Grae Kessinger

Freshman shortstop Grae Kessinger rounds third base to score during Ole Miss’ win over University of North Carolina Wilmington earlier this season. (Photo by: Cameron Brooks)

Coming off a strong showing against highly ranked Arkansas this past weekend, Ole Miss baseball will return home for a quick, two-game slate against the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks this week.

Currently sitting at a less-than-stellar 12-32 record, the Warhawks have had a tough year so far. For Ole Miss, the series should prepare the team for this weekend’s upcoming trip to Gainesville for a clash with the No. 5 Florida Gators. However, the Rebels should be wary of underestimating their current foe and keep from looking too far ahead. To avoid dropping an unnecessary loss to an under-qualified team, Ole Miss should pay attention to these focal points during its two-game matchup with ULM.

Making Use of Momentum

After a Rebel loss in game two of a double-header last Friday, the squad’s overall play has since  improved. Having finally broken the .500 barrier in conference play last weekend, Ole Miss has won 11 of the last 16 matchups.

However, the good fortune that has benefitted the Rebels is noticeably absent for the Warhawks, who have found themselves on the better half of the scoring card just once in their last six games. While ULM is only on a two-game losing streak, previous trends show the effect negative momentum can have on a struggling Warhawks team. In early March, ULM dropped 10 straight, and the beginning of April saw six consecutive losses. Although the Warhawks are only on the front end of a losing streak, history shows the Rebels can use that to their advantage and force their opponents into further disarray.

Offensive Production

Over the course of the Rebels’ last three-game series, they averaged just under five runs per game, which is a definite improvement over their midseason hitting slump. Ole Miss’ recent proclivity for scoring bodes well for Tuesday’s head-to-head with ULM. The Warhawks have failed to score more than five runs in a game since April 13. Before that, it was March 25. Thus, the Rebels’ hitting improvements demonstrate a telling edge in production at the plate. For the Rebels to fully take control of their foe, they should focus on scoring early and often to put away any possibility of a late-game surge from the Warhawks.

Avoid Underestimation

Perhaps the most important lesson Rebel head coach Mike Bianco will preach to his players ahead of Tuesday’s matchup will be to remember whom they are playing. As the weekend’s battle with national powerhouse Florida looms ahead, Bianco’s players cannot forget that they must first defeat ULM. To do so, the Rebels must avoid writing off the Warhawks as just another 12-32 team by playing as if they were facing off with the best in the nation.

If the Rebels can remain focused on the game they are playing and not on the one ahead, then they should handily control the Warhawks in both games. However, losing focus for even one inning could give the visiting Warhawks just enough of an edge to take down a much better Ole Miss squad.