The Ole Miss Rebels are the 2014 SEC West champions. Raise your hand if you saw that coming (put your damn hand down, you liar).
The Diamond Rebs clinched a share of the division title on Friday with a come-from-behind 4-2 win over Texas A&M, improving to 19-10 in-conference and sealing their fourth consecutive SEC series win in the process. They knocked off the Aggies, 8-4, in Game 1 on Thursday.
For the moment, it's just a share of the title. Mississippi State, who sits one game back at 18-11, could technically pull even with a Saturday win over Alabama coupled with an Ole Miss loss. But the Rebs hold the tie breaker thanks to a series win in Starkville earlier this season and have locked in the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament. Either a Rebel win or a State loss on Saturday will give Ole Miss sole possession of the division.
The Rebs' chase for one of the eight national seeds remains considerably less settled. After naming Vanderbilt a shoe-in for the second SEC spot (Florida is locked into the first) earlier this week, Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers changed his tune Saturday morning (#pageviews) and now has the Rebs as the No. 8 seed. That said, Rebel fans should still be rooting for Vandy to lose their series to South Carolina. The 'Dores still have a five-spot lead in Warren Nolan's latest RPI projections (Ole Miss is up to No. 10) and it could be argued they have the stronger resume thanks to a better record against top competition.
The Rebels just won the division they were picked to finish at the bottom of. Yours truly predicted a 14-16 conference record and led my season preview off with "we might just suck this season." Many thought Mike Bianco was on the verge of being fired. At the time, those predictions were fair. This team came in without the preseason All-Americans it was accustomed to. The roster was riddled with question marks after losing its top two starting pitchers, its top reliever and its top two hitters from a season ago.
But instead of sucking, Bianco, Cliff Godwin and the rest of the coaching staff have done a masterful job of getting production out of this roster. Veterans like Will Allen, Auston Bousfield and Sikes Orvis, who struggled last season, have put it together and are knocking the cover off the ball. Chris Ellis and Christian Trent not only filled in for the departed Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers, but have been even better. The contribution from the freshman class has been reminiscent of Hugh Freeze's group on the gridiron.
The real test remains ahead -- after all, Bianco's biggest knock is his failure in the postseason, not the regular season. But that doesn't take away from the accomplishments of this team so far in 2014.
Here's to a sweep of A&M and a couple more weekends of baseball at Swayze.