Ole Miss baseball needs big finish

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

There was no baseball practice at Ole Miss on Monday, and there will be none today.
While the Rebels could use the time to work on different things, they might benefit more by stepping back, gathering themselves and getting ready for six SEC games that will have a bearing not only on this season but on how the program is viewed moving forward.
At 11-13 in the SEC, postseason goals are still in play, but honestly, Ole Miss should be farther along in the pursuit of those goals.
On paper, the No. 24 team isn’t supposed to beat the No. 4 team in a best-of-three series, but the Rebels had more than ample opportunity to set themselves up for a series win against LSU only to find they could not drive home the winning run in a 4-3 13-inning loss in Game 1.
It was a capsule look at the season.
The Rebels are suffering the effects of a recruiting lull that has left the collective talent less than it was during the run of super regionals.
This has been labeled a rebuilding season after last year’s 13-17 SEC finish – the worst conference record of a Mike Bianco team at Ole Miss – kept the Rebels out of postseason.
The Rebels are in position to better that mark and return to the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
For Ole Miss fans, the frustration comes in the fact that the postseason future could be more secure and regional host status still within reach had the Rebels been able to close – through both offense and pitching – games in which they were in position late.
There were opportunities against Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia and LSU. Win two of those five, and the season looks very different now.
So with games left at home against struggling Tennessee and at rebuilding Vanderbilt that may be peaking, Ole Miss has work to do.
Bianco believes the talent base is getting better, but rebuilding is a lengthy process. It’s important to show progress and take a step forward over the next two weekends.
To win only two of the last six leaves Ole Miss at 13-17 in the SEC and would show no progress for a two-year stretch in a program to which commitments have been made through facilities and salaries.
Such a struggle to the finish line could really put Bianco and his staff under the microscope for 2013.
Fans who breathe a sigh of relief with the thought of the Vols coming in should remember that nothing has come easily for this Ole Miss team. A sweep of Tennessee would be a big lift for the Rebels, but that seems a stretch with the fiasco that Game 3 – outscored 27-8 the last three Sundays – has become.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.