By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
A team that needed to get back to the NCAA tournament to rid itself of the bad taste of 2011 has done just that.
So why isn’t there more of a celebration mood around Ole Miss baseball right now?
The Rebels had an eight-year run of NCAA trips snapped a season ago. Now, instead of entering the field of 64 with a show of force, they’ve kind of limped to the finish line, shut out twice in their last six games and averaging just 1.5 runs during that span.
It wasn’t that long ago that Ole Miss was playing well and winning against Florida and Arkansas, but the Rebels, a third seed at the College Station Regional, closed by losing three of their last four SEC series.
While the RPI remained strong, the run to the finish – also a factor in determining NCAA at-large bids – did not.
Friday’s first-round opponent in the College Station Regional, No. 2 seed TCU won 13 of its last 17 but played an RPI top 50 opponent just twice in that span.
Ole Miss is 1-6 in its last seven games, but three of those six are against RPI No. 21 Vanderbilt, the other two against No. 14 Kentucky, No. 6 LSU.
You can say a 2 seed or a 3 seed doesn’t really matter. They play each other.
But it matters in terms of a perception. It matters in how a team feels about itself, how it feels to hear the selection committee chairman say it was among the last five in. So the Rebels are back in the NCAAs, but barely.
Is perception important? It is for a fan base longing for something special from one of its three main sports.
Baseball is the sport that gives them the best chance.
Perception is more important among the players than the fans, because they have the power to change it.
As late as the Vanderbilt series, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco was calling Alex Yarbrough and Matt Snyder the best three- and four-hole hitters in the country.
That was a stronger argument at a time.
Yarbrough and Snyder need to capture their mid-season magic in this regional. The Rebels, as a team, need to find a way to produce the big inning whether with hits, aggressive base-running or any available method.
The Rebels face an uphill climb in winning a regional at Texas A&M.
What they really need to do this weekend is take a strong hold of perception. If perception is reality, the Rebels can achieve some degree of success by changing reality.
Their play needs to send a message that at the dawn of 2013 Ole Miss baseball will be ready to be a stronger factor in the SEC and more relevant in the national discussion.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.