At about 5 p.m. on Saturday, everything was going according to plan for the Ole Miss baseball team in their quest for a national seed. South Carolina was wrapping up its series-clinching 6-3 win over Vanderbilt and the Rebels were six outs away from a sweep of Texas A&M. An error-plagued four-run eighth inning later, and the Rebs now sit in a dead heat with the Gamecocks entering the SEC Tournament.
We said going in that two things needed to happen over the weekend: 1) the Rebs needed to win two of three, if not sweep, against A&M and 2) South Carolina needed to beat Vanderbilt, but not sweep. Requirement No. 2 played out exactly as hoped for, with the Gamecocks picking up wins on Thursday and Saturday to drop Vandy out of the running.
The Rebs fulfilled the minimum requirement by picking up clutch wins in Games 1 and 2, but likely missed an opportunity to seal a national seed with the loss on Saturday. The problem is that Vandy's loss was a catch-22: while it likely knocked them out of the race, it allowed South Carolina to move back into it.
The latest Warren Nolan RPI predictions have the Gamecocks at the No. 6 spot. After initially moving up to No. 10, Ole Miss fell back to No. 13 after the loss. Keep in mind that in the last five years, only two teams with an RPI lower than 12 have earned a national seed. The Rebs make up for the RPI discrepancy by owning the outright SEC West title, which they picked up on Saturday with Mississippi State's loss to Alabama. The result, at least according to the various college baseball experts, is a race that's too close to call.
Kendall Rogers at Perfect Game still has the Rebs as the No. 8 national seed, but notes that "South Carolina is just about dead even entering the conference tournament."
Typically, the conference tournaments don't factor heavily into the national seed decisions. But with the race this close, it could come down to who wins more games in Hoover this week. Both the Gamecocks and Rebs will have first-round byes and won't be in action until Wednesday. From there, it's a double elimination tournament, so whoever drops two games first could be the one that misses the national seed.