Head coach Mike Smith and the Rebels are riding high after sweeping No. 11 LSU in dramatic fashion over the weekend. Firmly in the postseason driver’s seat, the team now turns its attention to Tuesday’s midweek matchup with UT Martin.
UT Martin’s Skyhawks sit at a respectable 31-13 on the season, but the strength of their schedule pales in comparison to that of the Rebels. In fact, the only ranked opponent UT Martin has faced this year is Ole Miss, whom it faced back in March.
Though that match ended with the Rebels on top, the margin of victory was slimmer than many predicted, with Ole Miss narrowly avoiding defeat following a 10-7 shootout. If Smith’s Rebels hope to replicate their prior success and once again outmaneuver the surging Skyhawks, they will need to focus on a number of key factors:
Containing the Skyhawks’ hitters
Ole Miss has proven time and again that it can hit and score with the best, but the Rebels still struggle to limit the opposition’s offense. Giving up early runs could doom the Rebels to an unescapable hole.
With that said, Ole Miss was successful over the weekend at keeping LSU off the scoreboard by posting shutouts in two of the three games. If the Rebels’ pitching staff can pin the Skyhawks down from the first pitch, then Tuesday could prove highly successful for Ole Miss.
Holding off a late-game surge
Starting strong against UT Martin will certainly help the Rebels’ cause, but the Skyhawks are no strangers to late comeback efforts. To avoid these situations, Smith’s youthful team must stay composed at every stage of the game.
In their first matchup, the Rebels dominated the game early, quickly jumping out to a 6-0 lead. Despite that early-inning success, the Rebels allowed the Skyhawks to surge and tie the game after six innings.
A three-run inning saved Ole Miss last month, but it’ll need to exercise caution this time around in order to prevent a comeback from the zealous underdogs. Keeping the foot on the gas throughout the entire game should help Ole Miss dissuade any late-game heroics from the Skyhawks and ensure a second straight victory.
Away game pressures
Although the Rebels escaped their last head-to-head with UT Martin by the slimmest of margins, they did so in the comfort of their own home. This week, Ole Miss is traveling to Martin, Tennessee, to face the Skyhawks in hostile territory. Home-field advantage might not be everything, but Ole Miss’ less-than-stellar 3-6 away-game record shows how much being on the road can affect the Rebels and deserves notice.
Smith’s team has an air-tight game plan and offense to spare, but whether or not it can put the pieces together Tuesday night remains to be seen. Only time will tell if the Rebels can turn their talent and momentum into serious postseason aspirations.