PARRISH ALFORD: Baseball regionals still in play for Rebels

PARRISH ALFORD

PARRISH ALFORD

OXFORD

When you have a chance for an SEC sweep but lose the Sunday game, you can’t help but walk away feeling you left one on the table.

With a simulated RPI of 11, according to WarrenNolan.com, Ole Miss still presents a compelling argument to host one of 16 four-team regionals in the NCAA tournament.

RPI won’t be the only factor in the committee’s decision, but it will be a big one. Falling outside the top 15 range could be damaging.

That means the Rebels need to win not only the next two SEC weekends but also at Arkansas State a week from today in their final non-conference game.

Wednesday’s loss to Southern Miss, No. 63 in the RPI, was not helpful. It started a slide from an RPI ranking that peaked at 4 following the sweep of Kentucky.

Success in Lexington created buzz about a possible national seed, and Ole Miss even appeared as such in one set of regional projections.

An 11-1 loss to Arkansas on Sunday – especially in how it played out over the final two innings – has slowed that discussion.

It would be a tremendous emotional boost to this program to host a regional at Swayze Field. Anything else is extra. Right now the Rebels need to hone in on finishing as high as possible in the SEC regular season, at least in the top four.

Conference standings will also play a part in the committee’s regional placement process.

Ole Miss needs to prove that Sunday was a “that’s baseball” day and bounce back to the form that won the series against a solid Razorbacks team. In Game 1, Ole Miss starter Chris Ellis made his best pitches at critical times, and Aaron Greenwood sparkled in relief.

In Game 2, the Rebels’ offense tagged the Razorbacks’ top pitcher with his season-highs in hits (10) and runs (6).

Arkansas, though, has road wins at Florida, Mississippi State and LSU on its resume and certainly had the goods to take one at Swayze.

A week between games should offer a time for Sam Smith, the Rebels’ third SEC pitcher, to get some “coachin’ up.”

Ole Miss needs Smith to return to the form he’s shown most of the season and distance himself from the last two weeks.

A week ago, as the Rebels looked at back-to-back home series against Arkansas and Georgia, I thought the Razorbacks would offer the biggest threat.

Statistically, Georgia enters this week 12th in the SEC in fielding, 13th in hitting and 14th in pitching. The Bulldogs are also coming off a series victory against South Carolina – a reminder that it’s less about your numbers and more about your numbers on a given day.

Just as the Game 3 loss to Arkansas is a reminder that while June baseball at Swayze Field is tantalizingly close, it’s not a done deal.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.