With all of the NFL Draft-ing that happened over the weekend, we haven't had a chance to discuss the fact that Ole Miss baseball won two of three on the road against a top-15 Arkansas club, providing a significant boost in the arm to the Rebels’ NCAA Tourney hopes.
You’ll never guess it, but it was pitching that carried the Rebels to wins in the first two games (that was sarcasm!) against the Hogs. James McArthur was named the SEC pitcher of the week for his one-hit, eight-inning gem on Thursday night and freshman Ryan Rolison, bumping up from his customary third spot in the rotation, allowed just one run over six innings of work in the first leg of Friday’s double-header (a big storm that ended up closing the Razorbacks’ spring football game moved Game 3 up a day).
Not that the bats didn’t show in Fayetteville—Ole Miss erupted for five homers in Games 1 and 3. That included two from second baseman Tate Blackman, who’s now mashed five dingers in his last 10 games.
It’s a critical pair of wins for an Ole Miss team flirting with missing the NCAA Tournament for just the third time in Mike Bianco’s 17-year tenure. The Rebels were 9-9 in SEC play heading into the Arkansas series, meaning they needed to win six of their last 12 conference games—nine of which come on the road against ranked teams—to hit the 15-win mark generally considered to be the cutoff for tourney-worthy SEC teams.
Not only did the trip to Fayetteville bump the Rebels’ RPI from No. 40 to No. 34, it means they’ll now only have to win four of their last nine conference outings.
The problem is that the schedule still isn’t doing them any favors. Ole Miss closes the SEC slate with...
- A trip to No. 7 Florida, which leads the conference in runs allowed.
- A home stand against No. 15 Texas A&M, which hasn’t lost a weekend series since March.
- A road series against No. 5 Auburn, which has already felled Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi State this season.
To win four games in that span, Ole Miss just has to take two of three in one series and avoid getting swept in the others, something that seems very doable given the Rebels’ elite pitching. Securing at least one game in Gainesville this weekend will go a long way in helping the cause.
Before they can tackle that challenge, though, they’ll need to avoid a major letdown against a very bad Louisiana-Monroe team in a midweek series that starts on Tuesday. ULM’s RPI rank is a horrendous 253, meaning Ole Miss’ RPI will drop even if they sweep. Losing one or both games at home, though, could be a disaster.