Published on March 24th, 2016 | by Alex Thiel0
Rebels Welcome South Carolina for First SEC Home Series
Ole Miss Baseball has opened up the season on a tear, jumping out to a 15-1 start and flying up the national polls. The Rebs’ RPI sits at #3 in the country, and a sweep of Grambling State last week propelled the Rebs to #9 in D1 Baseball’s national poll and #10 in Perfect Game’s.
After a road trip to Tennessee over Spring Break, the Rebels will return to Swayze Field to welcome South Carolina for the first SEC weekend series of 2016. The Gamecocks are perennial contenders on the diamond, and they appear no different this season.
Sitting at 15-2, South Carolina boasts a record that admittedly benefits from a lack of stiff challenges. That will, of course, change with SEC play, but as of now, series wins over the likes of Penn State and Charleston Southern have done little to convince pollsters of the Gamecock’s staying power (their only poll appearance is #16 in the D1 Baseball poll). The computers, however, disagree: South Carolina is just three spots behind the Rebs in RPI, at #6.
This is not to say that South Carolina isn’t talented. A trio of Gamecocks—OF Dom Thompson-Williams, 1B Alex Destino, and C John Jones—are tied for second in the conference with four home runs apiece. They are equally dangerous on the mound: Starters Clarke Schmidt and Adam Hill are tied for first in the SEC (albeit with six other guys) with four wins and no losses between them. South Carolina struck out 17 batters in a 7-1 win against Wofford on March 8, one shy of their school record.
Of course, Ole Miss has some firepower of its own this season. Brady Bramlett (who just struck out 11 of 19 batters in his start vs. Grambling State) and Wyatt Short are all-SEC-caliber pitchers. While we can feel sure that these two will be competitive against any rival they face this season, the South Carolina series will be a telling test for starting pitchers Sean Johnson and Chad Smith, who will look to silence the Gamecock bats and establish themselves as reliable options against SEC competition.
Are top-tier programs’ numbers inflated at the beginning of the year? Sure. We’ve only just reached the spring equinox; there’s a lot of baseball left to be played.
But these are two programs that have proved, year-in and year-out, that they will be in the CWS conversation, and this coming weekend at Oxford-University Stadium will be the first of many SEC series that could pay big RPI dividends down the road.