March 26, 2012
OXFORD, Miss. -- Around 6:30 p.m. Friday, Swayze Field will be at a fever pitch, as the No. 16 Rebels (17-7, 3-3) begin their weekend series with No. 1 Florida.
The Gators (22-2, 5-1), coming off a series win at No. 8 South Carolina, are rolling through quite the early-season schedule. Florida opened with a series win against Cal State Fullerton and also swept Miami during nonconference play. The Gators also have midweek wins over Central Florida and Florida State and swept Vanderbilt to begin Southeastern Conference action.
UF has most everybody back from a national runner-up finish in 2011.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss has blown two of its past four games with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning and required a late-inning comeback to take the series against currently-hapless Alabama and get back to .500 in league play. The Rebels survived the critical weekend in Tuscaloosa but haven't been consistent of late.
However, a quick glance at recent history says Florida may be entering a dangerous weekend in Oxford. Ole Miss has hosted the nation's No. 1 team twice in the previous three seasons, and the Rebels claimed both series, two games to one.
"It's going to be a great weekend, and we've always done well against No. 1 teams when they come to play us," Ole Miss senior Matt Snyder said. "We'll have to do everything we can to win that series."
Just last year, after falling to then-No. 1 and eventual national champion South Carolina 6-1 on Friday night, Ole Miss blasted the Gamecocks, 10-2, on Saturday and used a walk-off sacrifice fly from Preston Overbey on Sunday to win, 7-6, and take the series.
In April 2009, the Rebels used the same script against No. 1 Georgia. The Bulldogs won, 6-3, on Friday, but Ole Miss won 10-8 on Saturday and 6-1 on Sunday.
Last season against South Carolina, Ole Miss was unranked. In 2009 versus Georgia, the Rebels were No. 11 and on their way to a share of the SEC title with a 20-10 conference record.
Since 2003, Ole Miss has hosted a top-10 team 13 times and taken the series on 10 of those occasions.