As Ole Miss baseball players watched Mississippi State advance through the postseason last year they couldn’t help but think, “That might have been us.”
The Bulldogs launched their run to the College World Series championship games from a 16-14 SEC regular season.
That turned into a deep SEC tournament run and an NCAA regional at home.
The Rebels were 15-15 in the conference regular season a year ago, mark that would have been 16-14 had only one of eight SEC one-run losses turned their way.
One of those was a 7-6 home loss to MSU in which the Rebels lost a 6-0 lead. It tarnished an otherwise impressive weekend as Ole Miss won the first two games of the series.
“Yeah, that’s always a sour taste in our mouths,” Rebels first baseman Sikes Orvis said.
No. 19 Ole Miss can’t do anything about last year but can give this year a big boost with success at Dudy Noble Field against No. 17 MSU this weekend.
Close losses followed Ole Miss into postseason last year. After beating Kentucky in the SEC’s opening round the Rebels lost extra-inning games to Arkansas and Alabama and dropped a 4-2 decision to William and Mary in the opening game of the Raleigh Regional.
The postseason experience might have played out differently had the Rebels been at home. They last hosted a regional in 2009.
Now Ole Miss players are motivated by the opportunity lost from Game 3 against the Bulldogs last year.
“That is something we’ve talked about, the older leaders who have come back,” senior catcher Will Allen said. “It is a little frustrating to think about that. For us to take two out of three and then for them to go on their run at the SEC tournament and host and eventually make it to Omaha.
“We definitely did have a little chip on our shoulder. When we were watching those games we saw that that could be us.”
Chip removal begins with offense. The Rebels have swung the bats much better since an 0-4 stretch that included being swept at Alabama two weeks ago.
The Rebels (27-8) have now won six straight – They swept Auburn last weekend – and have averaged 7.8 runs in the process.
Ole Miss is hitting .274 against the SEC. The Rebels have pitched it well too. They’re 2.54 earned run average in conference games is the best in the league.
Last weekend Auburn – the No. 3 hitting team in SEC games – scored just one run over the final 25 innings of the series.
The Rebels know they’ll have to continue to put up strong offensive numbers against a deep MSU pitching staff this weekend.
Allen is second in the SEC with 38 RBIs, Orvis second with seven home runs.
“Whenever we’re swinging the bat really well we’ve got a really good chance of winning,” Orvis said. “Coach (Cliff) Godwin always talks about QABs (quality at-bats) and trying to score more than five runs, and if we do that, we’ve got a pretty good shot at winning.”
OLE MISS ROTATION
Today: RHP Chris Ellis (4-0, 1.88)
Saturday: LHP Christian Trent (4-0, 2.41)
Sunday: RHP Sam Smith (4-2, 2.22)