So how do you feel about this Ole Miss baseball team? Are the Rebels a lock to host a regional?
Errol Robinson told us Saturday that the thinking after the Game 3 win over Texas A&M was about national seed, that a 3-2 win on get-away day had the Rebels a “strong contender” in that conversation.
Here’s the rub. There are seven host-worthy teams in the SEC, seven teams with at least 18 wins, seven teams in the top 11 of the RPI. Maybe this is that special year that the committee awards more SEC host sites than ever before, but six host sites would do that. It’s not a stretch to see the committee going from five host sites to six, but it might be a stretch to go from five host sites to seven.
LSU finished a game ahead of Ole Miss in the regular season standings.
Vanderbilt finished even. The Commodores are the No. 6 seed here in Hoover, the Rebels No. 7, but is that really a big distinction for the committee? Ole Miss and Vanderbilt did not play this year, so there’s no head to head record to go on. Will the committee value an obscure tie-breaker that has Vanderbilt ahead of Ole Miss in the standings?
The Rebels dropped to No. 7 in the overall when the tie-breaker moved to highest- seeded common opponent. That was No. 2 seed South Carolina which swept Ole Miss in Oxford but lost two games to Vanderbilt in Nashville.
Ole Miss can claim a series win over LSU. Does one game in the final standings matter that much to committee when the lower-seeded team controlled the higher-seeded one in two games?
Ole Miss and Vanderbilt could meet Thursday in either a winner’s bracket game or loser’s bracket game depending on what happens tomorrow.
The host thing may still be playing out.
The best thing the Rebels can do is win, which they did today, 5-1 against Georgia.
Missouri offered little resistance to Vanderbilt in the first game of the day. The Commodores won 7-0, but Missouri has an RPI of 116, so that did nothing for Vanderbilt’s resume.
The Commodores are 9-10 vs. the RPI top 50.
Ole Miss in beating Georgia added another quality win and is now 11-12 against the RPI top 50.
About today’s game …
There was a little concern in the fact that Ole Miss was facing a senior right-hander who dominated the Rebels in Athens when they had their only loss in that series.
Heath Holder limited Ole Miss to one run on three hits in seven innings on May 8 in Athens. He picked up where he left off in Hoover facing the minimum through the first three innings.
But Holder left a couple of balls up in the fourth. He walked two batters and hit another. JB Woodman had a two-run triple, and Colby Bortles had a two-run double.
You could sense where this was going. Georgia got nothing done on offense after a solo home run with two outs in the first.
Brady Bramlett settled down after that. Brady Feigl, Will Stokes and Wyatt Short provided the relief work, and Ole Miss improved to 36-0 when leading after six innings.
The fact that Mike Bianco so quickly went to his preferred bullpen combination tells you what he thought about the importance of today’s game.
Ole Miss chased Holder with two outs in the fourth. The Georgia bullpen stabilized things after that, but the damage had been done.
After the fourth the only other Ole Miss run came with Woodman’s RBI double in the fifth.
The lead was four, but it might as well have been 400 against a Georgia team hitting just .253, tied with Alabama for next to last in the league.
The Rebels had only six hits in the game. The key was that half of those went for extra-bases, and Ole Miss hit .333 (3-for-9) with runners in scoring position.
It was not a great offensive game for Ole Miss, but it was great pitching, and when you can add timely offense to that then you’ve really got something.