Rebels aiming to keep priorities in line with Kentucky up next

Published 12:03 pm Thursday, May 12, 2016

There are two weekends left in the regular season, which means there are six games left to be played in the Southeastern Conference slate before heading to the conference tournament in Hoover, Alabama.

With six games to go, Ole Miss finds itself in a position many did not pick the Rebels to be in before the season began in early February, contending for a division championship.

The No. 6 Rebels (36-13, 14-10 SEC) are still sitting two games back of No. 2 Texas A&M in the Western Division with the Aggies still on their schedule and a potential top-10 matchup awaiting next weekend in College Station, Texas, with the division crown possibly on the line.

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It is easy to ignore these scenarios in the early and even middle stages of a 56-game  season, but with only seven games total remaining, it becomes tougher to keep your focus on your team and the opponent in front of you on that day.

“With social media, you see it all the time,” senior Holt Perdzock said. “(Ole Miss) coach (Mike) B(ianco) does a good job of making sure we don’t look too far into it and just take it one game at a time and one win at a time.”

Social media as well as the Internet as a whole has made it tougher on teams to keep in a bubble and focus on themselves. With websites having regional projections starting as early as March and Twitter prognosticators giving their opinions daily and everyone holding a smartphone in their hands, it’s become a much more difficult task for a head coach to keep his team’s focus on the task at hand.

“That’s a big deal, it’s much tougher I think in today’s day of social media,” Bianco said. “Not just Twitter and the social media that we talk about. It’s really the media. It’s not just social media. It’s probably more the media, more the Internet with so many different stories and regional expectations. Which is great for college baseball, but it’s much more difficult for the players to stay in the present and be where their feet are and not worry about what else is going on.”

Next challenge
Ole Miss has to keep its focus at Oxford-University Stadium starting tonight (6:30 p.m., ESPNU) as the Rebels begin their final home SEC series of the season with Kentucky coming to town.

The Wildcats (29-20, 13-11) come into the weekend after taking a key series from then-No. 6-ranked South Carolina last weekend. Next weekend against the Aggies will mean very little if Ole Miss loses its focus tonight through Saturday afternoon.

Kentucky will send Zack Brown to the mound tonight against Brady Bramlett in the series opener. Brown has an earned run average of 5.93 and a record of 2-9.

Dustin Beggs will toe the rubber on Friday opposite David Parkinson. Biggs is Kentucky’s ace as the senior has an ERA of 2.50 and a record of 8-1. In the finale on Saturday, Kyle Cody will start for Kentucky with an ERA of 3.86 and a 5-2 record with James McArthur getting his third straight SEC start for the Rebels.

Offensively, Kentucky is led by sophomore first baseman Evan White, who has a team-best batting average of .362. White has 34 runs batted in, one fewer than team leader Gunnar McNeill, who has 35.

In the home run category, McNeill is tied with five other players with a team-high five.

“They’ve beaten some really good teams and not just wins but series wins against Florida and South Carolina,” Bianco said of Kentucky. “So obviously, it’s a big challenge for us.”