Midweek matchup vs. North Alabama precedes marquis series this weekend

Posted on Apr 2 2019 - 5:50am by Josh Gollihar

With the Arkansas Razorbacks in the rearview mirror and the Florida Gators on the agenda for the weekend, Ole Miss welcomes North Alabama to Oxford for an 11 a.m. game on Tuesday. The Lions are experiencing growing pains in their first year competing as a Division I program, struggling to a 5-21 record.

The Rebels are coming off of an electrifying series win over Arkansas, winning 2 of 3 in Fayetteville. The weekend propelled the Rebels to 20-9 on the season and 5-4 in the SEC.

Because Doug Nikhazy has taken the mantle of a weekend starter, the midweek starts have been handled mostly by Jordan Fowler. The sophomore lefty has been unable to recapture his form from the end of last season.

Fowler’s start against Memphis last week only lasted 1.2 innings after 5 hits, 4 runs, a walk and a hit-by-pitch ended his night. The goal of a midweek starter is to eat innings and protect the bullpen for the weekend.

Ole Miss pitcher Zack Phillips pitches the ball at the series against Long Beach State earlier this season. The Rebels were victorious this weekend, with a series win against the Arkansas Razorbacks. File photo by Christian Johnson

Fowler has four midweek starts on the season. He threw a gem of a game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, going 7.0 innings and only surrendering one run. The other three starts have seen him give up 13 runs over 7.2 innings.

Matchups with Southern Miss and Mississippi State await in the midweek. If Fowler is going to remain the midweek starter, the coaching staff needs to see the form of his Pine Bluff start become the norm and hope the other three starts can be left behind in the past.

Northern Alabama has played some of the same teams as Ole Miss has this season. The Lions lost two midweek games to the University of Alabama, and Tennessee-Martin beat them in 2 of 3 games in a series.

The matchup with UNA presents a similar problem to that of the two games against Pine Bluff a couple weeks ago. The Rebels won those games by a combined score of 37-2 because they faced a lower tier of pitching than SEC opponents throw at them on a weekly basis, and this disrupted Ole Miss’s rhythm.

Adjusting back to SEC pitching against Missouri the following weekend was an issue. The Rebels lost 2 of 3 against the Tigers, scoring 9 runs across three games. Facing a struggling Northern Alabama team may present a similar problem as the Rebels transition into the weekend series against the Florida Gators. Tuesday would not be the worst time for Mike Bianco to empty the bench.