At the close of last year's NCAA Super Regional loss to Virginia, you could see the attrition hit coming. Ole Miss lost four of its top five pitchers to the draft, then had the unexpected loss of closer Jake Morgan to elbow surgery.
A leadoff hitter averaging around .350, a catcher with power and the school's career RBI leader were also gone.
Now with six SEC games left, the Rebels can go either way. They can repeat as SEC co-champs - or better themselves from 2009 - or they can finish third in the Western Division as predicted by league coaches back in the winter.
Heading to this weekend's series at Alabama, Ole Miss is two games behind South Carolina in the overall race, one game behind Arkansas in the Western Division.
Right there with the Rebels is improving Auburn, the league's best offensive team. Both are 15-9 in SEC play and finish the season against one another at Ole Miss.
If the Rebels finish in a heads-up tie with South Carolina or Arkansas they lose out. They dropped both series and for the same reasons - they couldn't sustain offensive success against the upper tier pitching of the SEC.
With the exception of one game against Florida, Ole Miss hasn't been able to manufacture enough runs against the best staffs to increase their chances for success.
Sometimes the Rebels have won anyway. Friday night lefty Drew Pomeranz gives them a chance any time he pitches, and Aaron Barrett has demonstrated the same potential. Without his performance in Game 2, the Rebels might have been swept by Arkansas.
After saving the series with a Sunday win at South Carolina, the Rebels galvanized offensively and strung together 10 straight wins, six straight in the SEC. Those conference wins came against middling pitching staffs from LSU and Mississippi State.
Ole Miss scored just 10 runs at South Carolina, just seven at home against Arkansas.
The recent hot streak coincided with a run of good health for designated hitter Matt Snyder, who has missed 17 games this season. That dislocated shoulder sustained at Tulane in early March has had lingering effects. When Snyder's not available, there's a hole in the lineup that can't be missed.
If the Rebels are going to make a deep postseason run, they're going to have to find away to scratch out more runs against quality pitching.
Now, if Barrett's Arkansas game becomes a trend at the finish and not a flash of ability, quality pitching is why this team can make a deep run.
It takes more than two good arms to win a regional, but winning the first two games and staying in the winner's bracket removes an awful lot of pressure as opponents wear out their pitching.
And if Barrett can hold down an Arkansas team stacked with basehits and power, he can win the second game in a super regional.
Even quality pitching has to have run support, and that's something the Rebels need to address with or without Snyder.
With six to play in the SEC there's a fork in the road, and the Rebels can go either direction.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.