MONROE, La. - All five of the latest collegiate baseball polls reflect it. The Ole Miss Diamond Rebels are one of the nation's elite eight teams.
Austin Anderson is hitting .414 after two more hits Tuesday. He has yet to strike out this season. Photo/ Josh McCoy
If that can hold through 10 weeks of Southeastern Conference play, Ole Miss can finally garner that elusive trip to Omaha and the College World Series.
Ole Miss is 17-1 after beating Louisiana Monroe 10-4 Tuesday night here at Warhawk Stadium. This was the Rebels' fourth road win coupled with 13 wins in Oxford. They conclude the two-game road set with Louisiana Monroe tonight and then eye the beginning of SEC play with a three-game series with former No. 1 ranked Arkansas that starts Friday.
So how are the Rebels doing it? For starters, they have shown they are a complete team. They have fantastic pitching, the defense, for the most part has been solid, and they've managed to manufacture runs without the benefit of home runs.
Ole Miss has hit just five in 18 games to date. Yet they have scored 122 runs through Tuesday night's play.
The team's batting average coming into the Monroe series was .307. After 12 more hits Tuesday night, that has gone up toward .315.
Six Rebels are batting over .300 led by junior college transfer catcher Stuart Turner at .475. On Monday, he was named to the Johnny Bench "Watch List." If you ask Ole Miss fans, it should be a pretty short list. Turner has been magnificent this season.
From throwing out 11 would be base stealers to leading the team in hitting and RBIs, Turner is the best collegiate catcher in the land right now. He had another run knocked in last night to give him 28 for the season. The .475 and 28 numbers lead the SEC.
There's more to the Ole Miss offense that just Stuart Turner. Look no further than the return to the left side of the Rebel infield..shortstop Austin Anderson and third baseman Andrew Mistone. Both were good defensive players last year but they struggled at the plate hitting .239 and .233.
Andrew Mistone has seen his batting average rise to the .340 range, over 100 points higher from 2012. Photo/ Josh McCoy
Anderson has been a revelation on offense in 2013. Last night he became the second Rebel to go over .400 for the season after going 2-for-3 with a sacrifice. He is at .414 now, which is 175 points better than last season. Another amazing fact - he is yet to strike out this season.
Anderson has said he credits hitting coach Cliff Godwin and the chance to play every day as the reason toward the vast improvement.
"We come out with confidence like we did today, right from the first inning and we executed," Anderson said after the Monroe win Tuesday. He also had three more RBIs to reach 17, second most on the team.
Mistone, once regulated to hit at the bottom of the order, is not batting fifth these days. He is batting .346 with 14 RBIs. The one bad defensive outing against Memphis aside, Mistone has been his normal rock self at third base.
Let's not forget about the pitching. One ULM staffer was amazed by the number of sub 2.00 earned run averages by the Ole Miss pitching staff. Nine players have such a mark led by the team's most reliable arm, Tanner Bailey. He has made nine appearances with 11 innings pitched and has yet to give up a run.
Bailey came in Sunday in the seventh inning and held the door shut on David Lipscomb University until Ole Miss rallied with five runs in the seventh and pulled out a dramatic 9-8 win.
Ace Bobby Wahl, who will go Friday at Arkansas, is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA. Mike Mayers is 2-0 with a 1.52 ERA. Aaron Greenwood, who closed out last night's game, is at 0.60. Brady Bramlett, who starts tonight against ULM, is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA.
Freshman left-hander Matt Denny, who made his seventh appearance last night, is still under just one earned run.
Aaron Greenwood is one of nine Ole Miss pitchers with a sub 2.00 earned run average. Photo/ Josh McCoy
As a team, Ole Miss had nine more strikeouts last night to give them 145 for the season.
"This team can pitch it," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said after his school-record 487th win.
That they can. And hit and field, too.