SEC play is finally upon us! LSU opens the conference slate tonight with our old foe, Ole Miss. I talked with smeargle of Red Cup Rebellion to get a preview of this year's
Rebel Bear squad.
PodKATT: Another season, another early postseason exit for the Rebels. Mike Bianco’s tenuous time in Oxford once again got on the hot seat this past offseason as an Ole Miss team with big potential was once again…wait, what?
smeargle: Yea, I have to admit, last season and the trip to Omaha were other worldly as an avid Ole Miss baseball fan. It was really special to finally see first hand the grand experience of Omaha that seemingly every other SEC fan base had been talking about. Maybe someday Ole Miss and LSU can play each other in the CWS for epic rivalry madness.
PK: With the new ball and a lot of turnover in the lineup from last year, has Ole Miss’ offensive game plan significantly changed from years past? And when is Sikes Orvis going to graduate and stop haunting my nightmares?
smeargle: I don't think it is the new ball that has changed our offensive game plan as much as it is losing our hitting coach Cliff Godwin to a head coaching gig at his alma mater East Carolina. Our new hitting coach is Mike Clements from Kansas State. So far it seems like a major slump as the Rebs are second to last in the conference in team batting average. However I think this is more due to losing some of our stud bats to the draft. Sikes was the main stud we didn't lose and even he is seeing some early season struggles. Hopefully the 'stache haunting returns this weekend.
PK: Ole Miss comes to The Box damaged, a mere 2 games over .500 against an OOC slate that has some star power, but not enough to justify the worst record in the SEC West. Did you expect this start and do you think it can be turned around?
smeargle: I honestly did not expect this slow of a start even though we lost a lot of the heart and experience of our lineup. The strength of the SEC is a blessing and a curse in which the marathon gauntlet can either provide you with an opportunity to bounce your RPI back up or sink you to the bottom with notches in the loss column, no matter how "quality" those losses might be. After the LSU series, Ole Miss has to turn right around and host the #1 ranked Gators in Oxford. If we can take one of those two series, I think it would provide a huge momentum swing and morale boost for the team.
PK: Looking at the pitching staff, it seems you’ve got a good bunch of strike throwers for starters. Any worries about that approach when LSU is batting nearly 100 points above the competition y’all have faced so far? And has Christian Trent done anything to get himself kicked off yet another SEC team yet?
smeargle: Our Friday and Saturday rotation is pretty solid. Christian Trent is still undefeated as a Rebel and Brady Bramlett has probably been the biggest breakout player on our team (leads the SEC in strikeouts) after he missed last season to injury. Sunday has been kind of a dumpster fire of black tar heroin. Our starter Sam Smith can't seem to make it past four innings before the shit hits the fan. Sam started this past Tuesday so maybe that's a sign that Coach Bianco wants to give someone else the nod this weekend. As for Trent's off the field behavior, I haven't heard of him making any poor life choices other than ordering grilled chicken tenders at Chick-Fil-A.
PK: With the graduation of Hawtin Buchanan, who is now the most Ole Miss of Ole Miss baseball player names?
smeargle: Gotta go with our freshman pitcher John Wesley Ray. A triple first-name name? It just reeks of "Y'all better give me a pledge to this frat...my dad owns a dealership."
PK: Bottom 9, Two out, down 1, 1 on. Who do you want to come to the plate for Ole Miss?
smeargle: I'd say our CF J.B. Woodman. He has floated around the top of our batting order this season and has the highest average and on-base % of the core five players that have started every game. Now where's the brisket?