A 43-win season over in the span of less than 24 hours. Ole Miss, which this time last week looked poised to pick up a national seed, was washed winless out of its own regional by Tulane on Saturday, blowing a ninth-inning lead in a 6-5 loss. Its the second straight year the Rebs have failed to win an NCAA Tourney game after going two-and-through in Los Angeles in 2015.
If we're being honest, Ole Miss' super regional hopes died on Friday night in the loss to four-seed Utah—the Rebs just didn't have the starting pitching depth to reel off four straight wins out of the losers bracket. But you figured they'd at least be able to grab one from Tulane, especially after Errol Robinson's two-out, bases-loaded, two-RBI single put Ole Miss back in front, 5-4, in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Will Stokes pitched a clean top of eighth and got the first batter of the ninth, putting the Rebs just two outs away from a win. Then Tulane, which had already left the yard twice in the game, did this:
(WARNING: you may not want to watch this if there's anything breakable within arm's reach.)
And that's the real story of the Rebs' regional collapse: the sudden struggles of a bullpen that had been the strength of the team all year. Heading into the SEC Tourney semifinal game against A&M, Ole Miss relievers hadn't surrendered a lead after the sixth inning in 38 straight opportunities. They just did it three games in a row (OK, technically Brady Feigl's three-run collapse against Utah was during the sixth, not after it, but I'm counting it).
They actually blew two leads against Tulane, with Connor Green coughing up two runs in the seventh to give Tulane a 4-3 lead. The Rebs answered back in the bottom of the frame after Green Wave starter Alex Massey left the mound, loading the bases before Errol's clutch single snuck through the infield.
But the offense deserves a share of the blame this weekend as well. They weren't horrible, combining for 10 runs off 15 hits in the two games. But the bats weren't nearly as prolific as they'd been over the last month. Specifically, it was the heart of the order, which had been smoking hot coming in, that let the lineup down: J.B. Woodman, Henri Lartigue and Tate Blackman combined to go just 4-for-25.
Woodman and Blackman, who will be picked up at some point during next week's MLB Draft, might have just played their last games as Rebels (Blackman is draft-eligible as a sophomore because he's 21). The same goes for Errol, who seemed to say goodbye after the loss.
Rebel Nation... It's been a pleasure.— Errol Robinson (@errol_robinson6) June 4, 2016
Your shortstop, Errol Robinson
There's no doubt that it was a wildly disappointing end to the season. Yes, the Rebs got a tough draw from the selection committee, but there's frankly no excuse for dropping games to inferior teams—which Tulane and Utah most certainly are—with such an overwhelming home field advantage.
As a whole, however, this team overachieved in 2016. Had you told me back in February that a club overhauling its pitching rotation and replacing some of its key sluggers would win 40 games and be in the national seed conversation, I woulda said you're full of shit.
See y'all at Swayze next season.