Ole Miss Baseball: With SEC Play Coming, It’s About to Get Real
OXFORD, Miss. — As Ole Miss approached its Big 10 portion of the schedule, I wrote that anything less than 7-2 in the games against Maryland, Nebraska, Minnesota and Purdue would be a disappointment. After losing the very first of those nine games against the Terrapins, it appeared I might need to be prepared for that disappointment. However, eight straight wins in the remaining games against our brethren from the north followed, and the Rebels are right where they need to be—at 14-2 and ranked No. 3 in the country.
But it is about to get real with SEC play looming. Over the next six weekends, the defending national champions take on four top ten teams (No. 6 Vanderbilt, No. 5 Florida, No. 7 Arkansas, No. 1 LSU), one top fifteen (No. 15 Texas A&M), and the other series is in Starkville. A murderer’s row if ever there was one. On the other hand, all of those teams are looking at their own schedules and seeing that they have to play Ole Miss. With that comes an offensive lineup about as deep as you’ll ever see in college baseball.
It took Purdue until the final game of the series to figure out you can’t let Kemp Alderman beat you, and Ole Miss fans should expect to see a lot more of him being pitched around in the coming weeks. That means Calvin Harris and Anthony Calarco will see plenty of pitches to hit batting in front of and behind him. They’ve both proven capable of doing damage themselves and I’ll be surprised if they don’t respond well. There are also hitters up and down the lineup who are capable of carrying the team on any given day. The 9-hole hitter Ethan Lege was the MVP of the Sunday game against the Boilermakers.
Of course, my confidence would be greater if Hunter Elliott was toeing the rubber for the opening game every weekend, but there’s certainly no reason to concede anything in the weeks that he’ll be out. The primary objective is to be in solid position in the standings when he makes his return. Assuming that happens in mid-April, as has been suggested, the Rebels will have played four conference series by then. If you offered me a 7-5 record in those games right now, I would take it. I could even live with 6-6.
At this same point last year, the Rebels were ranked No. 1 in the country and held that position through the first weekend of SEC play before things went south for quite a stretch. But there’s no need to rehash all of that. We all know how things eventually turned out. It does however remind us that no matter what occurs in the coming weeks, there’s no reason to get too high or press the panic button. Let things play out. What’s the worst that can happen? No one is going to come repossess your 2022 National Champions cap.
The Vanderbilt series looks to be interesting. They did not have an overly impressive week this past one—scoring two against Evansville in a 17-inning midweek win over the Purple Aces (one of my favorite nicknames), then two again in their 2-1 and 2-0 wins over Loyola Marymount before falling in the finale to the Lions 9-6. So, it appears that they have a solid pitching staff as they typically do, but the offense isn’t going to scare anyone. That makes for a good matchup because as my dad has always said, “Good pitching beats good hitting. And vice versa.”
I’m ready for ten straight weekends of SEC baseball and I imagine you are as well. I love football gamedays—the Grove and all that comes with it. And I’m looking forward to seeing big basketball games in the Pavilion again soon. But it doesn’t get much better than home weekends at Swayze in the spring. Especially when we have high hopes for the Rebels.
Now, where do I go to purchase my 2023 Big Ten champs t-shirt to compliment all my national champions ones and when does baseball weather begin?
(Feaature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)
Clint is a native of Pensacola, Florida with a BA and MBA from Ole Miss. He’s a season ticket holder for football, baseball and basketball who has made countless road trips to watch the Rebels play over the years. He’s witnessed the highs (2016 Sugar Bowl), the lows (Bryce Drew), and everything in between. He has three grown children (Will, Wes, and Reagan) and currently resides in Oxford with his wonderful wife Janna.