Thursday, May 20, 2010

5P Primer: Ole Miss

 

An old coach used to always hammer the 5 "Ps": Prior planning prevents poor performance. Not just a fancy slogan that gets a High School football coach/Driver's Ed instructor through the day; it's also a good way to know what to expect from upcoming Auburn opponents. Here's your 5 "Ps" for Auburn's next opponent: Ole Miss

PRESENTING: The Ole Miss Rebels, the only team standing between Auburn and a SEC Western Division crown. MIke Bianco and the Rebs have sparked a surprising turnaround this decade, hosting 4 NCAA Regionals and 3 Super Regionals. Ole Miss has quickly supplanted Mississippi State as the baseball power in the Magnolia State. Historically, the two teams are pretty even. with the Rebs holding a 70-66-1 edge over the Tigers historically. (Oddly, the Ole Miss program lists a 73-71-1 advantage). Auburn hasn't won a series in  Oxford since 2004 and the Harvard Crimson and Yale Blue have topped the Tigers in 4 straight series (and 4 straight games).

PREVIOUSLY: Ole Miss reaffirmed their position in the top of the SEC after sweeping LSU then followed up with a sweep of Mississippi State. If there's a good time to catch the Rebels it would be now as they've surprisingly dropped 2 straight series (to Arkansas and Alabama). The Alabama one was probably the biggest letdown. Had the Rebels swept then the tables would have been turned and they (not Auburn) would have a 1 game lead in the SEC West and probably would have locked up Regional hosting duties. The Rebels will toss out their two most consistent pitchers, JR LHP Drew Pomeranz and SR RHP Aaron Barrett. Both guys have 7 wins on the season and give UM a solid 1-2 punch in their rotation:

DREW POMERANZ (7-1, 2.15 ERA)

IP H R ER BB K Dec
LSU 3.0 1 5 4 9 3 ND
MSU 6.1 5 1 1 1 11 ND
Ark 6.2 9 4 4 2 8 L
Bama 5.0 1 1 1 7 9 W

 

AARON BARRETT (7-2, 3.26 ERA)

  IP H R ER BB K DEC
LSU 6.0 4 5 4 4 5 ND
MSU 3.2 2 5 4 3 4 W
ARK 8.0 6 1 1 2 6 W
BAMA 6.2 2 1 1 8 7 ND

 

PLAYMAKERS: Auburn will have their work cut out for them tonight when they face one of SEC's (and one of the Nation's) best pitchers: Drew Pomeranz. An almost guaranteed 1st round MLB Draft pick, Pomeranz is damn good:

Pomeranz enters the regular season finale against Auburn with a 7-1 record and continues to lead the Southeastern Conference in several categories, including strikeouts (121), ERA (2.15) and opposing batting average (.176). The southpaw is second in the nation in strikeouts and is only seven strikeouts shy of setting the career strikeout mark currently held by Lance Lynn. Pomeranz has struck out 326 batter for his career. Hewas recently named a finalist for the 2010 Ferriss Trophy awarded annually to the top collegiate baseball player in the state of Mississippi.

The College Baseball Blog had even better things to say about the legend/hype/reality of Drew Pomeranz:

Pomeranz had a solid freshman season when he made 17 appearances including making 11 starts. He accumulated a 4-3 record as he struck out 81 and walked 30  with a 4.16 ERA in 71.1 innings of work. After the season, he was named Freshman All-America and All-SEC Freshman selection.

He became a fixture in the Rebels rotation as he made 16 starts on the season with an 8-4 record and a team-leading 3.40 ERA. He walked 37 batters while striking out 124 in 95.1 innings of work. He held opponents to a .237 batting average against. In the NCAA Regional, he pitched eight innings against Monmouth before coming back on two days rest against Western Kentucky where he pitched a complete game striking out 16 batters and allowing only two hits. He was named All-SEC Second Team.

Pomeranz spent the summer of 2009 with the USA Collegiate National Team where he made five starts going 4-1 with an ERA of 1.75 as he struck out 48 batters in 25.2 innings. Baseball America rated him the seventh best prospect on the team.

Pomeranz is a strikeout master and for super aggressive hitters like Brian Fletcher and Trent Mummey, he could spell disaster.

 

 

Offensively, there are a couple of names to look out for, but Ole Miss is a hard team to shut down. They have multiple guys hitting over .300 and have a couple of big power spots in the lineup with big boppers like Mike Smith (12 hr), Tim Ferguson (8), Matt Snyder (9) and Taylor Hashman (7). There isn't a single player that you could look and say, "I shut him down, I shut the team down". Top to bottom, the Rebels have a scarily consistent lineup.

PREVIEW: Here's what the series boils down to. Patience. Pomeranz is good, but he can be erratic at times (evidenced by the 9 walks against LSU). As a whole, the Rebels pitching staff lives and dies by the Strikeout. However, any team that does that is going to give up a ton of walks (which they do). Any free pass that the Rebels give, the Tigers need to take advantage of it. It's going to be hard to judge what Auburn will do on the mound. All that we know is that Cory Luckie will take the hill tonight. Luckie has been a bit erratic in his last couple of starts but he's show flashes of dominance. Tonight is the key for Auburn. I honestly, think Pawlowski is using the outcome of this game to determine the rest of the rotation. If Auburn can steal a win tonight, then Cole Nelson could go Friday. If Auburn loses? Probably Grant Dayton. (My thinking could be flip flopped but I think you get the point) It's do or die for Auburn and I have full confidence that if Auburn wins one game Thursday or Friday then they can win the series. Ole Miss has just had too many problems on Sundays (Saturday this weekend).

Another key will be the bullpen. If Auburn can get to the Ole Miss bullpen, the Tiger bats can absolutely feast. Outside of closer Brett Huber, the Rebel bullpen has been shaky at best and Auburn has shown (and I'm using the UT series as an example) that when it can get to a teams bullpen early, then it can coast.

 

 

PREDICTION: Unbiased attitude aside, this is the biggest series for Auburn in a long time and Coach John Pawlowski seems to have his team ready. I want to see the Tigers take the West and they need 2 wins to do that. That's what I'll predict: AUBURN TAKES 2 GAMES AND WINS THE WEST.

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