The red-hot Ole Miss Diamond Rebels are off to Fayetteville, Ark., in hopes of getting some practice time in at Baum Field before the start of Southeastern Conference play against the Arkansas Razorbacks Friday night. Ole Miss wrapped up a two-game sweep of Louisiana Monroe Wednesday night with an 8-3 win at Warhawk Stadium. The sixth ranked Rebels will enter SEC play with an impressive 18-1 record. Game 1 of the Arkansas series is set for 6:30 p.m.
Ole Miss left-fielder Tanner Mathis will carry the same mind-set into the Arkansas series as the Rebels have done in the first four weeks of the season.
"We're relentless but we also bring a selflessness to the park," Mathis said after Wednesday's win. "They (ULM) were in the game late in the eighth inning but we saw one of our guys come off the bench make the biggest play of the game."
That would be Jake Overbey who smacked a two-out, two-run double to right-center to extend what was a tight 4-3 Ole Miss lead into a 6-3 cushion. Mathis followed suit with a base hit to score Overbey for a 7-3 lead. Ole Miss tacked on a run in the ninth to finish off the Warhawks, who were hosting an SEC team for the first time in two years.
"It was really good to see Jake get that hit, he's worked his tail off," Mathis said.
10,000 A GAME
Now it’s time for the Razorbacks, who enter with a 13-5 mark after beating up Alabama A&M 13-0 Wednesday.
"It's going to be a good one," Mathis said. "There will be 10,000 people there all three days."
"It doesn't matter who they start off with, we know we'll face three great pitchers. I know Astin has been great as their closer," said Mathis.
Barrett Astin, however, might start Friday's game against Ole Miss' Bobby Wahl. The regular Razorback ace, Ryne Stanek, has struggled this season and word out of Fayetteville this week was that he was being moved to a Sunday start.
"We'll just have to see," Wahl said. "I played with Stanek on Team USA in the summer. He's got awesome stuff."
Stanek is 1-1 with a 3.71 earned run average. His control has been an issue with 10 walks in just under 20 innings pitched.
Astin, on the otherhand, has been solid with a 1-1 record and a 1.71 ERA. He's been used twice as a starter and once as a closer. Trey Killian has been the best Hog pitcher at 2-1 with an 0.86 ERA in 22 innings pitched.
WEST COAST WOES
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said the Razorbacks had a tough trip to Arizona and that's where they were handed three of their five losses.
Arkansas pitcher Ryan Stanek
"Very good team, had a tough week at Arizona State, but that was a real good team they faced," Bianco said. "Obviously, they are one of the best teams in our league. They love baseball and 9,000 folks will be there over the three days. It's a big test for us."
So far, Ole Miss has handled everything thrown at them. They are 5-0 on the road after sweeping away Florida International and Louisiana Monroe.
Like they showed in Monroe, Ole Miss can produce at the plate. They had 26 hits in the two-game series and all nine batters and a couple off the bench contributed.
Catcher Stuart Turner leads the team with a .492 average after getting three more hits last night. He leads the SEC in batting average and RBIs with 28.
Shortstop Austin Anderson is just under .400 at .397 and he leads the team in runs scored with 21.
Arkansas has some pop as well. Tyler Spoon hits .388 and has driven in 22 runs. Brian Anderson bats .364 with 16 RBIs and Jacob Mahan is batting .330.