It’s on to the future for Ole Miss. Mike Bianco and his players believe they are in the NCAA tournament, and that seems to be the feeling among most who cover college baseball.
Regional projections have the Rebels in the field. The discussion seems to be whether that’s as a 2 or a 3 seed, and the discussion for those with media travel budgets to consider is whether the regional is out west or within a drivable distance.
Whatever the case, I’ve said from the beginning that this season needed to be about getting back to the NCAA tournament for Ole Miss and reestablishing itself as an annual presence in that event. After missing it last year, getting back is Priority 1. In the life and rebuilding of the program, more will be expected next year.
The frustration with this team has been that at times it has shown itself capable of much more than just getting there. Series wins against Florida and Arkansas heightened expectations. Games that got away from the Rebels, however, dropped them from a position of strength. Opportunities lost against Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, LSU dropped the Rebels from regional host contention and a higher seed position.
Whatever the case, it’s about the future now, and Bianco likes the way his pitching sets up for a regional.
He’s basing that thought mostly on his top two starters, Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers, an how they’ve pitched down the stretch. In that regard, I like the pitching too. The overwhelming number of four-team regionals are won by the team that wins the first two games. These two give Ole Miss a chance.
But Thursday’s 11-2 loss to LSU was a reminder of the lack of pitching depth for this team. Had RJ Hively been able to start, he likely would have given the Rebels four or five strong innings, perhaps more, and then Tanner Bailey, Aaron Greenwood, Chris Ellis could have come in later.
Depth is lacking more with Hively out. Bianco is confident that Hively will be available for a regional.
That’s good, because they definitely need him.
And they need to see a team that looked somewhat better on offense for stretches of time against Arkansas and LSU put things together and begin to score runs.
It will be hard for anybody’s pitching to win three games with only four runs, and that’s the combined total that the Rebels produced in the SEC tournament against Kentucky, Arkansas and LSU.