The Tigers are on the road again this weekend, visiting our mortal enemies, the Ole Miss Rebel Bear Sharks. I talked with Zach Berry over at Red Cup Rebellion to find out about their team and the violent goon squad in right field.
PodKATT: The Rebs got off to a really hot start this season, winning 17 of 18 to start the year, winning their first 3 SEC weekends, and being ranked as high as third nationally. Even after a few series losses, Ole Miss still looks like a Super Regional team. Is this what you expected for this team this year?
Zack Berry: Not at all. Coming into this year, the offense was a big question mark. Last year’s squad hit .253 as a team and never seemed to be able to get the big hit at the right time. This is something they’re doing a lot this year. I think myself and everyone else at The Cup expected a team that would be able to really throw it and hopefully come around mid-season at the plate, but this year’s team looks poised for something much more. Hopefully.
PK: Ole Miss is in the top 5 in the SEC in nearly every offensive category and they’re slugging .473 as a team with 46 home runs. Is it a traditional power offense, or is Ole Miss doing something special?
ZB: Power? No. Thomas Dillard leads the way with nine home runs and 44 RBI’s but the rest of the lineup is mostly gap-to-gap power guys outside of Jacob Adams, who still does have a little pop in him. What this team does so well is string hits together, over and over and over again. And a lot of the time it is with two outs. They’re relentless. It’s a trait that has to be incredibly annoying to opposing pitching staffs and something that eventually breaks them late in games.
PK: Ole Miss’s team ERA of 3.44 is very impressive. 11 of the 14 pitchers on the roster have ERAs under 4, and they have a pair of relievers with 6 and 7 saves on the year. The staff K/BB is 399/132 and they’ve only given up 27 dingers. It looks scary on paper, but it’s also lost 3 of 4 to Mississippi St this year, who isn’t hitting well at all. What’s the most impressive thing we’re going to see on the mound for the Rebels this weekend?
ZB: It’s weird that Ole Miss is second in the SEC in saves, yet that’s been their kryptonite at times this season; closing out games. They lost two one-run games to Vanderbilt after taking the lead late but not being able to slam the door shut. And it happened again this week against State. Again. But, most impressive? I think Ryan Rolison, Brady Feigl, and James McArthur have the potential to show you something special. Maybe not all three of them, but at least one of them will turn in a performance that will frustrate you as a LSU fan. Rolison is a legit top 15 prospect, Feigl has the best stuff on the staff, and McArthur is as consistent as the come in the third game. Look for lots of radar guns in the stands in game one. Rolison is special when he is on.
PK: Mike Bianco severely damaged the O.M.A.H.A. joke by actually making it to Omaha a few years back. Y’all still like him?
ZB: Yeah, Mike is cool. All jokes aside he has elevated the program to top 15 status and I think he is one of the most respected names in the business. Hell, we make money off baseball. Not many can say that.
PK: Swayze had some pretty significant renovations in the offseason. Do you like the changes? Also, why are the students throwing batteries at the battery?
ZB: So the renderings for the new baseball locker room and clubhouse look awesome. A member of our staff has a family member that has been down there and it’s apparently going to be sick when completed. As far as the lower-level seating, I think it looks great. Premium seating and closer to the action. And as far as the students go, it appears to be one jackass who ruined it for several others last weekend. Here’s to hoping that y’all won’t have to deal with that this weekend. We and several others scolded them on Twitter so hopefully that worked. And it won’t be a problem for long since after construction is complete, Ole Miss will flip sides and be on the first base side when construction is complete.
PK: Bottom 9, 2 out, Tie game, Man on 3rd. Who do you want at the plate?
ZB: Ryan Olenek. Plain and simple. He is our best hitter, is very hard to strike out, and is just a damn nuisance at the plate. He has the innate ability to fight off anything close that he can’t barrel up until he does get something he can barrel up. He’s hitting .397 and is currently riding a 19-game hitting streak. The point remains, the dude just gets it done. He’s 1st in the SEC in doubles (14), 2nd in hits (62), and would probably be up there for conference player of the year if Jonathan India didn’t exist. A close second would Thomas Dillard just for the chance to see him hit a ball 700ft to win a game.