By Parrish Alford
An Ole Miss team struggling to find confidence will search for it in a difficult venue tonight.
Following a 6-5 setback against Southern Miss Tuesday night the Rebels face the defending national champions, No. 1 Vanderbilt in Nashville.
The Commodores (27-7, 10-2 SEC) had a six-game win streak snapped Tuesday in a 3-1 loss to Lipscomb. They lead the Eastern Division by two games over Missouri.
Ole Miss (16-17, 5-7 SEC) is under .500 this late in the season for the first time under coach Mike Bianco.
Tonight’s 6:30 start will be televised by ESPNU. Game time is 6:30 again Friday, and a 2 p.m. Sunday start will air on The SEC Network.
The SEC schedule will reach its mid-way point at the conclusion of this weekend. The Rebels have lost three straight and eight of their last 11.
It’s hard to rip off several wins in a row with wobbly self esteem.
Rebuilding confidence begins in practice Bianco says, and practice was something the Rebels had little time for between a Tuesday game in Pearl and a short start to the Vanderbilt series.
“When you play well and win confidence happens, and that’s what everyone’s waiting for, but it starts with believing in yourself in practice, getting through your routine every single day,” Bianco said. “Confidence is a choice. It’s not just something that happens. You make a decision to feel good about yourself.”
There’s no time to complain about time, place or opponents on a schedule that’s ranked No. 1 in difficulty according to WarrenNolan.com.
“That’s just part of the deal,” Bianco said.
Vanderbilt is hitting .309 as a team and is second in the SEC in on-base percentage and runs scored, first in stolen bases.
The Rebels had 11 hits against Southern Miss including a 3-for-5 performance from juco transfer Connor Cloyd who moved into the lineup and left field and to the leadoff spot in the batting order.
“If we play more like we played Tuesday, especially offensively, I think we’ll be OK, but we have to play like that more often,” Bianco said.
Tonight: Ole Miss Jr. LHP Christian Trent (5-2, 3.83 ERA) vs. Vanderbilt Jr. RHP Carson Fulmer (5-1, 2.25 ERA)
Friday: Ole Miss So. RHP Brady Bramlett (4-2, 2.27 ERA) vs. Vanderbilt Jr. RHP Walker Buehler (3-0, 2.76 ERA)
Saturday: Ole Miss Fr. RHP Will Stokes (0-3, 5.40 ERA) vs. Vanderbilt Rfr. RHP Jordan Sheffield (3-0, 2.66 ERA)