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Weekend Preview: Diamond Rebs Welcome No. 24 Kentucky To Oxford

Weekend Preview: Diamond Rebs Welcome No. 24 Kentucky To Oxford

OXFORD, Miss. – The boys are back in town. After spending last weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee, Ole Miss baseball has returned to the friendly confines of Swayze Field for another ranked matchup, this time against the No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats. The Rebels are coming off a nice 13-9 bounce back win over a good Austin Peay squad on Tuesday night, while the ‘Cats got a 9-5 win over Miami (OH) on the same night.

The Rebels lead the all-time series against UK, 26-16, holding a 12-5 advantage at home. The last time the two teams met, Ole Miss took two out of three in Lexington in April of 2022.

Wildcat Weekend

Kentucky enters the weekend at 21-4 overall and has been the surprise of the SEC East, going 5-1 so far to lead the division. The Wildcats have already swept a very good Georgia team that includes Player of the Year candidate Charlie Condon, and most recently won two of three over Missouri.

Kentucky scores runs in bunches, having scored at least nine runs in four of their six SEC games, and have scored fewer than five runs just five times this season. That said, the ‘Cats are statistically very similar to the Rebels. They hit .280 as a team, which actually ranks four points below Ole Miss, who bats .284. Kentucky isn’t a power hitting team, having smacked just 22 home runs on the season, led by Ryan Nicholson with four. But while they don’t hit a lot of bombs, the Wildcats get on base, and that’s where they beat you. Kentucky leads the conference in stolen bases with 58, and they create chaos on the basepaths on a regular basis.

The trio of Emilien Pitre, Devin Burkes, and Wyan Waldschmidt have combined for 34 of those 58 stolen bases. Pitre adds a .327 average to the mix, giving himself plenty of opportunites to swipe bases. On the flip side, Ole Miss has allowed 19 stolen bases while only throwing out six. The Rebels also lead the conference with eight passed balls. Wildcat baserunners are going to make Ole Miss pitchers and catchers work extremely hard to focus on both the batter and the basepath.

On the mound, Kentucky comes in with a 3.66 overall ERA, good enough for 5th in the SEC. Mason Moore, Drew Lafferty, and Dominic Niman have been the usual weekend starters for the Wildcats, combining for 78 strikeouts and just 28 walks. The ‘Cats also have a good bullpen who have shown the capacity for getting out of tough jams on multiple occasions.

Ole Miss Outlook

The Rebs got back on track Tuesday, swinging their way to a 13-9 win over Austin Peay, a team that already had three wins over SEC opponents on the season. But “the grind don’t stop,” as they say, and the Rebels are gearing up for their third consecutive SEC East foe, and this one happens to be leading that division. Ole Miss is 18-8, 3-3 in conference play entering the weekend, and still very much in the mix at this early stage.

Generally speaking, the Rebels haven’t had many issues offensively since the early part of the season. Batting .284 as a team, Ole Miss has belted 42 homers and added 187 RBI’s. Andrew Fischer continues to lead the squad with 11 bombs, but Ethan Lege has somewhat quietly been the driving force for the offense all season, batting .376 and crushing his 7th homer of the season Tuesday night.

And while the Rebs don’t steal as many bases as UK, they have picked up the pace on the basepaths, up to 37 swipes on the season. Ethan Groff is a perfect 10-for-10, while Luke Hill is a close second at 9-for-10. Treyson Hughes also continues to raise his numbers, with the transfer outfielder now flirting with .300, batting .293 on the season entering the weekend.

On the mound, the Rebels have quite the shakeup coming. After both Gunnar Dennis and Grayson Saunier got roughed up on Rocky Top, Head Coach Mike Bianco decided a change was in order. Riley Maddox, who had been the midweek starter to this point, will get his first SEC start on Friday.

I thought we needed a little bit of a jolt. Maddox has pitched so well for us, really for the last three weeks he’s been dominant. I think he controls the running game as well as anybody we’ve got.

-Mike Bianco on Riley Maddox getting the Friday start

Maddox will step on the mound Friday with a 4.56 ERA 25.2 innings, having struck out 21 and walked just seven.

Liam Doyle will get his regular Saturday start, giving the Rebels an excellent chance at a Saturday win, while Gunnar Dennis will remain in the rotation, but will start on Sunday, replacing Saunier. Dennis has excellent stuff when he’s in command, but has given up 14 hits and 13 runs in his last two outings. The change to Sunday could potentially see less pressure on Dennis, particularly if the Rebels manage to pull out two wins on Friday and Saturday.

Series Specs

First pitch on Friday will be at 6:30 PM, while both Saturday and Sunday will go at 1:30 PM. All three games will be streamed on the SEC Network+. The Rebels will look to get their second conference series win and avoid back-to-back series losses, while Kentucky will be looking for their third straight SEC series victory. As always,Β The Rebel Walk will have you covered from start to finish.

Austin Eldridge

Austin Eldridge

Austin has more than ten years in sports media, including sports talk radio, play-by-play broadcasting and journalism. He has followed Ole Miss athletics for his entire life and has covered the Rebels and the rest of the SEC while working in the Memphis media market. Outside of sports media, Austin is a musician and outdoorsman. Before a serious accident forced him to be medically discharged, he was a multi-media journalist with the Mississippi National Guard.

About The Author

Austin Eldridge

Austin has more than ten years in sports media, including sports talk radio, play-by-play broadcasting and journalism. He has followed Ole Miss athletics for his entire life and has covered the Rebels and the rest of the SEC while working in the Memphis media market. Outside of sports media, Austin is a musician and outdoorsman. Before a serious accident forced him to be medically discharged, he was a multi-media journalist with the Mississippi National Guard.

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