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SEC Preview: Tennessee Hosts Ole Miss

Photo by Cayce Smith/Tennessee Athletics

This weekend, Tennessee baseball will host Ole Miss for the first time since 2019. The last matchup between these two teams took place in Oxford in 2022. That series was the coming out party for the Vols and really showed the country who they were. Ole Miss was ranked no. 1 in the country at the time and the Vols went to their “big ballpark” and swept them with ease. The Rebels will be looking for revenge this weekend in Knoxville after being outscored 26-7 in the last series matchup.

The red hot Rebels have won 10 of their last 11 games, including a series win over South Carolina this past weekend. Ole Miss started slow out of the gates with a 2-4 record over the first 6 games but have come on strong lately with a 14-2 record since then. The Rebels are led by left fielder Ethan Lege and third baseman Andrew Fischer at the plate with an offense that has been top heavy so far this year. The Rebels have had a pretty consistent first four hitters in the lineup with Jackson Ross and Ethan Groff paired with Lege and Fischer. Those four players have combined for a slash line of .339/.467/.645 with 24 HR, 86 RBI, and 15-16 on stolen bases. The rest of the roster is hitting a combined .235/.375/.369 with 11 HR and 77 RBI. There is a clear drop off after the top of the order. If the Vols want to take their first SEC series victory this weekend, they will need to attack the top of the Rebels lineup.

Tennessee comes into this weekend having cooled off slightly from their hot start to the year. The Vols won the SEC opener but dropped the next two and the series to Alabama. The SEC is as tough as ever and it showed last week across the conference as not a single road team won a series. The Vols will be favored to take this series against Ole Miss, but it will not be an easy one. The offense struggled in clutch moments against Alabama and also struggled against the breaking ball. The SEC is a spin rate conference, so if the Vols don’t adjust to the higher spin on fastballs up and breaking balls they will continue to struggle in those moments. With all that being said, the Tennessee offense is still elite and one would expect them to make the necessary adjustments. Another thing to watch for this weekend is Blake Burke sitting at 38 career home runs, just 2 behind Luc Lipcius’ record. Burke has been on a heater of late with home runs in 4 of the last 6 games. He has a good chance to tie or break that record at home against Ole Miss this weekend. 

The SEC home opener for the Vols should be an exciting environment in a big time matchup as they look to get back on track. Look for Tony Vitello to potentially mix some things up in the lineup to help get the guys going a little bit. The lineup needs to keep hitting and making adjustments if the Vols want to win this weekend and have their shot to win the conference championship at the end of the season.

Players to watch:

Ole Miss 3B Ethan Lege - .384/.490/.699, 6 HR

Ole Miss LF Andrew Fischer - .316/.443/.789, 9 HR

Ole Miss 1B Jackson Ross - .347/.520/.597, 5 HR

Tennessee 1B Blake Burke - .375/.444/.825, 8 HR

Tennessee 3B Billy Amick - .375/.457/.800, 9 HR

Tennessee 2B Christian Moore - .365/.460/.694, 7 HR

Projected Pitching Matchups:

Game 1 - Gunnar Dennis 4.56 ERA, 23.2 IP, 29 K v AJ Causey 1.65 ERA, 27.1 IP, 38 K

Game 2 - Liam Doyle 3.95 ERA, 13.2 IP, 27 K v Drew Beam 3.03 ERA, 29.2 IP, 26 K

Game 3 - Grayson Saunier 4.09 ERA, 22 IP, 17 K v AJ Russell 2.89 ERA, 9.1 IP, 16 K

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