Diamond Rebels Ready to Battle with the Bayou Bengals
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss (27-10, SEC 9-6) welcomes LSU (22-14, 4-11) to Swayze Field Thursday night for the first of two straight SEC series at home. The matchup comes at a great time as the Rebs are looking to return to their winning ways to begin the second half of league play. While LSU has not faired well in the SEC thus far this year, the Tigers always present a challenge.
After a solid outing in Starkville last Friday, RHP Gunnar Hoglund returns to the mound tonight for Ole Miss, looking to win his first game over the past four weekend series. In a strong showing, Gunnar allowed only three runs to score last Friday, although the game ultimately ended in a loss for the Rebels to arch rival Mississippi State.
Scouting LSU’s Landon Marceaux
This week Gunnar will square off against RHP Landon Marceaux (4-3, 1.65 ERA) who has tallied 67 strikeouts on the season thus far.
The 6-foot, 180-lb. Marceaux out of Destrehan, Louisiana has a 3/4s arm slot and repeatable mechanics much the way Hoglund does. Marceaux’s fastball — which tops out in the low to mid 90s — works the lower portion of the zone. He also has an excellent curveball with high tight spin that will bite as it crosses the plate to help expand the plate and strike out the opponents swinging.
Marceaux also throws a changeup that exhibits some run and fade. He will get in trouble if he is not getting the call on his curve. If he begins to show command issues, the bullpen will be called in quickly.
Doug Nikhazy (4-1, 1.86 ERA) will start on Friday night against RHP A.J. Labas (2-0, 3.35 ERA). Nikhazy is coming off of National Player of the Week and SEC Pitcher of the Week honors for throwing a complete-game, one-hit shutout against No. 4 Mississippi State last Saturday.
Scouting A.J. Labas
Labas has a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s that has some late arm-side run. The complement to his fastball is a sharp slider at 82 mph with a changeup that is 80-81 mph.
At 6-foot-three inches, 210-lbs., Labas has a 3/4s arm slot and works well when he mixes his pitches and moves with a quicker pace than normal. He will get in trouble if he starts to slow his pace and show signs that he is laboring to make the next pitch.
Drew McDaniel (4-0, 2.97 ERA) will get the start again on Sunday for Ole Miss after putting forth a solid 5.1 innings of work last weekend against State, only allowing two runs on three hits and two walks. He will be counted on heavily against an LSU lineup that can get hot at the plate.
As of the time this post was written, the starter for LSU had not been announced.
LSU is never an easy foe in baseball, so Coach Bianco and the Rebs will have their work cut out for them against the Tigers. Ole Miss has some issues in the bullpen that must be worked out. Middle relief has been a weakness over the past three SEC series. Don’t be surprised to see several relievers who have not yet pitched in conference play.
Pitchers Brandon Johnson and Jack Dougherty may be pressed into action ahead of schedule for short periods of time to keep the Tiger offense from roaring back.
Last weekend against the Bulldogs, Ole Miss’ starting pitching was sharp and at times dominant, and they were able to eat a number of innings as the Rebs had only pitched four pitchers through the first 23 innings in Starkville. However, some of the relievers struggled and closer Taylor Broadway, who has been stellar this year, was pushed into duty early in the sixth inning of game three.
The top of the Rebels’ lineup on Friday and Sunday did not step up as much as needed in order to help Ole Miss secure the victories. The Rebs will need Jacob Gonzalez, Peyton Chatagnier and Kevin Graham to bring run support so the offense can help the Ole Miss bullpen win the game.
This weekend as the Rebels return to Swayze, the friendly crowd will be there to lift this team back up to its winning ways. The SEC schedule is always brutal, but look for Bianco’s bunch to take care of the business at hand. No doubt the fans will be out in full force, ready to cheer them on.
Remember to be in your seats before 6:50 this evening, as Ole Miss retires the number of former head coach and legendary player, Don Kessinger.
Thursday, April 22 at 7:00 pm CT (ESPU)
Friday, April 23 at 6:30 pm CT (SECN+)
Saturday, April 24 at 12 pm CT (SECN+)