Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A Top Ten Midweek Clash on the Diamond in the Bluegrass State

By Adam Brown
Sports Editor

Ryan Olenek. Photo by Steven Gagliano

The No. 9 Ole Miss Rebels baseball team travels to the Bluegrass State for a midweek series showdown at the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals. First pitch is set for today at 3 p.m.

Ole Miss (12-3) enters this series after sweeping the UAB Blazers over the weekend. The Rebels outscored the Blazers 30-14 over three games.

Junior Thomas Dillard enters the midweek as the SEC’s leader in home runs with seven, good for seventh in the nation.

The Rebels are averaging 8.5 runs per game, the second-highest scoring rate in the SEC and 15th-best in the nation. As a team, Ole Miss is slashing .302/.409/.483, all good for 26th or better in the nation and top-five in the SEC.

Coach Mike Bianco’s club has stolen 33 bases this season, the second-most in the SEC and 13th-most in the country.

Louisville enters with an 11-4 record after taking the opening ACC series from Boston College 2-1.

The Cardinals are lead at the plate by first baseman Logan Wyatt with a .356 batting average. He has four extra-base knocks on the year a double, triple and a home run to go along with nine RBIs.

Ole Miss will reunite with former Rebel assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Dan McDonnell. McDonnell was on the Rebel staff from 2001-06, the early Bianco years. McDonnell’s final two seasons in Oxford featured a pair of NCAA Regional titles, as well as an SEC West Championship in 2005 and an SEC Tournament title in 2006. This marks the second time Ole Miss has met a former assistant coach, having played Cliff Godwin and ECU last week.

Ole Miss holds and 8-6 lead in the all-time series against Louisville, including an even 5-5 split in the Bianco era. The two teams last met for a three-game series in Oxford, with Ole Miss taking Games 1 and 3 to win the series. Ole Miss last traveled to Louisville in 2015, earning a split of two-midweek games. The Rebels also went to Louisville for a midweek series in 2012, and the teams split that one as well, making the series 2-2 when played in the Bluegrass State. Ole Miss has outscored Louisville 105-70 in the all-time series, including a 21-1 win for the Rebels in their first-ever meeting in 1991.

The probable pitching matchup will showcase the arm of southpaw Doug Nikhazy. Nikhazy comes in with a 1-1 record and a 3.48 ERA in just 10.1 innings of work. Coach Bianco has not named a starter for Wednesday’s matchup. Louisville will give the ball to Luke Smith. Smith enters with a 1-0 record and 4.30 ERA in just 14.3 innings of work. He has struck out a total of 13 batters, with four walks and has only allowed just two hits in six innings. Wednesday’s hurler has not been announced.

Fans can watch every pitch on the WatchESPN app on the ACC Network Extra or listen to the call on the Ole Miss Radio Network.