By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Tennessee, with its eight conference wins, won’t be confused with an SEC baseball juggernaut, but a sweep of the Volunteers has Ole Miss players hopeful that Sunday’s 4-2 victory won’t be their last at Swayze Field.
Ole Miss (34-18) is 14-13 in SEC play, a record that leaves them second in the Western Division and fifth in the overall standings with three games left.
For the Rebels, that’s three games at surging Vanderbilt, which has won three straight series and just took two games at No. 4 LSU.
Success at Vanderbilt could get the Rebels back in the regional host conversation. Other factors would come into play, such what happens at next week’s SEC tournament.
“There are more games to play. We’re proud of the sweep, but we feel like we have business to take care of. We want to finish out the SEC season strong in our series at Vanderbilt. We’d really like to get back here if we can,” junior second baseman Alex Yarbrough said.
The Rebels may have work remaining to make the NCAA field, something they didn’t do last year with a 13-17 regular season SEC record and no trip to the league tournament.
Ole Miss begins the week with a ranking of No. 20 in RPI, which is a key element used by the NCAA selection committee in determining at-large bids.
The Rebels – who climbed back into the Baseball America rankings at No. 25 – play their final non-conference game tonight at 6:30 at Arkansas State. Winning against the Red Wolves, with their No. 140 RPI, won’t enhance the Ole Miss resume, but losing could have a negative impact.
Ole Miss last hosted a regional in 2009 when it was 20-10 in the regular season and shared the SEC championship with LSU.
The Rebels hosted regionals with a 17-13 SEC mark in 2006 and a 16-14 mark in 2007. Both of those regular seasons were followed by success in the SEC tournament. The Rebels were tournament champions in 2006 and won their first two games in 2007, reaching the semifinals.
Prior to the Tennessee series Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco talked to his players about what success against the Vols might mean.
” We can only win the games we can win and then see what happens. Certainly if we’re to play here again this year, we’ve got to win some games, and we need some people ahead of us to lose,” Bianco said.