A lot on line for Rebels, Alabama

Published 12:00 pm Friday, April 15, 2016

After stringing together a handful of wins, the Ole Miss baseball team faced another minor setback on Wednesday when the Rebels dropped their first midweek game of the season in a 5-1 loss to No. 25 Southern Mississippi.

It can stay a minor setback because the No. 8 Rebels (25-8, 6-6 Southeastern Conference) still have everything they want to accomplish in front of them.

Getting back to .500 in the SEC, thanks to a sweep over Arkansas, helped them get to within two games of Western Division leader Mississippi State, and with each weekend series consisting of three games, the Rebels could make up a lot of ground this weekend.

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To do that, they will have to find a way to win their second SEC road series of the year starting tonight against Alabama (7 p.m., SECN+).

During its five-game winning streak, Ole Miss outscored its opponents 43-26 but was held to just the one run against Southern Mississippi on six hits.

“We’ve got to get better at-bats,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said after Wednesday’s loss. “One, we didn’t swing it well with runners in scoring position, but two is we just didn’t give ourselves enough opportunity.”

Those opportunities might be few and far between this weekend and especially tonight against Alabama starter Geoffrey Bramblett. The junior right-hander has a record of 3-1 and a 2.39 earned run average.

Last season, Bramblett shut down Ole Miss in a Sunday matchup after the Rebels had already clinched the series. He did give up eight hits but only allowed three earned runs and struck out six in a 13-4 Crimson Tide victory

Alabama (20-13, 6-6) started off hot in the SEC, taking series from LSU and Tennessee, but since has struggled with losses at Georgia and Kentucky the past two weekends. With the West jumbled at the top, this is a key set of games for both clubs.

“They can really pitch it,” Bianco said of Alabama. “They’ve done that all year, especially their starters. A team that I think improved from last year with some different faces in the lineup. But a team obviously the same record as us and fighting to battle in the West.”

Keeping things the same
The pitching rotation saw a makeover last week as reliever David Parkinson and regular closer Wyatt Short earned their first career starts on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

There will not be a shakeup in the rotation as Bianco kept everyone in the same place as they were in a week ago. Brady Bramlett continues to be the ace of the staff and will pitch tonight with Parkinson getting the start on Saturday.

Sunday is listed as to be announced (TBA), but it was also listed that way last weekend before Short was notified of his start on Saturday evening.

“I don’t think we were great,” Bianco said of his pitching after last Sunday’s win. “One of the things we’ll have to figure out going forward is who the starters are. But after that, once you start taking your closer and start taking some other guys that pitch a lot, almost every game or every other game. Once you start moving them, then parts of the bullpen become void and someone has to step up and take those roles.”