So, Ole Miss arrived in Hoover just needed a win or two to solidify itself among the nation’s elite and secure a top eight national seed.
Well, they did a little more than that.
After a tough loss on day two at the hands of the Auburn Tigers, Mike Bianco’s club regrouped, reloaded, and ran off four straight wins on their way to a SEC Tournament title, dismantling the red-hot LSU Tigers in front of 14,126 people at Regions Park on Sunday.
The 9-1 victory gave Mike Bianco his second tournament title, the other coming in 2006, and the school’s third overall. The good guys record is now not only shiny enough for the committee to give them the nod at a national seed, but they now have the most wins among Power 5 teams in the nation. And with the tournament in Hoover included, Ole Miss’ overall record is now 46-15 and 22-13 in the conference.
- 46 overall wins
- 22 conference wins
- No. 6 RPI
- Wins in the last week over Georgia (No. 9 RPI), Auburn (No. 14 RPI), Texas A&M (No. 15), and LSU (No. 34)
- SEC West Champions
- SEC Tournament Champions
- 20-12 vs. Group 1
- 14-6 vs. Top 25
- 13-9 on the road
- 5-2 neutral site
Yeah, I think that’s going to be enough.
Hell, even the NCAA can’t turn that record and resume away.
Home sweet home.
So what does this mean? In my opinion, it puts the Rebels in the top four teams in the country per national seed discussion. But, it also brings our boys back home. A place where they frankly do not lose very often (28-4). That record not only indicates a stellar mark at Swayze Field, but it also reminds us that Mike Bianco’s squad has yet to lose two straight at home. And if you’re not familiar with NCAA baseball’s postseason structure, that is what has to happen for you to be eliminated.
Lose two in a row.
And as mentioned above, the Rebs haven’t let that happen all year long.
Starting pitching back?
One thing that also hasn’t happened all season long is stellar starting pitching outings. Sure, Ryan Rolison and Brady Feigl have been really good this season, but if you asked them truthfully, they would probably echo what I’m putting down here. Despite some good numbers and a positive win-loss record, they have struggled at times to get off to good starts and work deep into ballgames.
Well, not in Hoover.
Both Rolo and Torch were outstanding when the Rebs needed it most this past week at Regions Park. And to follow that up, James McArthur silenced the doubters as well after his last five starts have been lackluster at best. Let’s take a gander.
- Ryan Rolison - 6.1 IP, 3 hits, 2 earned runs, 6 strikeouts, no-hitter into the 6th
- Brady Feigl - 6.2 IP, 3 hits, 1 earned run, 3 strikeouts
- James McArthur - 5.1 IP, 5 hits, 0 earned runs, 6 strikeouts
Outside of Rolison, Torch and Tex both had some of their best stuff when Ole Miss needed them the most. And that is what the postseason is all about; when your back is against the wall and you need to pull it out the fire. But, it doesn’t stop there, pitching coach Carl Lafferty caught a glimpse of what else he has in the Gas Tank AND what the future holds with outstanding outings from Jordan Fowler and Houston Roth.
Fowler, a freshman from Union City, Tenn. wasn’t even sure if he was going to be able to walk, much less play baseball at Ole Miss, after a devastating car accident a little over a year ago. Now, he’s 7-0 for the Rebs after DEALING against one of the more dangerous offenses in the SEC this weekend, hurling six shutout innings, scattering six hits, and striking out three. The midweek starter didn’t flinch on the biggest stage of his life.
To follow that up, sophomore Houston Roth was surgical in front of the second-largest crowd to ever see a SEC championship game. The Oxford, Miss. native was pumping low-to-mid 90’s all afternoon and kept the Tiger hitters guessing, throwing 4.1 innings, striking out four, and only allowing four hits and one earned run.
Add both of those performances to the “shit, that’s good for the postseason” shelf.
Gas Tank back, too?!
And lastly, with all the hell the bullpen has caught this season for not being as reliable as we once thought and blowing leads late, they sure as hell showed up this past week. The Gas Tank was very much back on its bullshit.
For all the flack the bullpen has gotten this year...— Red Cup Rebellion (@RedCupRebellion) May 26, 2018
The good guys are now 42-0(!) when leading after seven innings this season pic.twitter.com/80WopnA6sg
In the four wins, the bullpen put together one of the better box scores that I’ve ever seen. In total, Gas Tank hurled 14.2 innings, allowed just five hits and only earned run, struck out 18, and earned two saves and a win. Add on top of that that you had two dudes in Max Cioffi and Austin Miller step up and deliver in a big spot, something they haven’t done all-year long, and you’ve got yourself a dangerous weapon on the backend of baseball games again.
Yeah, the offense is still good, too.
Status quo. Per usual. Yada yada.
Mike Clement’s Relentless Rebs are hitting .303 as a team and sport eight guys in the lineup now hitting over the .300 mark. And the lone guy not hitting that high is parking fastballs over the fence into folk’s bullpens like it ain’t no thang.
CRANKED! First for @jayadams07 since March 18!— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) May 26, 2018
https://t.co/KEpgELX6dc #HottyToddy #RebsBSB #SECTourney pic.twitter.com/IMGiDJATuh
But, y’all know the drill, the offense is so good. Led by tournament MVP Nick Fortes (.556, 10 hits, 5 runs scored), Ole Miss lit up SEC pitching, posting 23 runs in their four wins. All-Tournament honorees Thomas Dillard (.309, 13 HR, 56 RBI) and Will Golsan (.303, 13 2B, 45 RBI) are scorching hot right now and are HUGE problems for opposing pitchers.
We’ve said it all season long. There is no break, no rest for the weary with this lineup. They are deep, powerful, and work counts as good as anyone up there until they get something they can tattoo up against a wall in the outfield. And with Tyler Keenan (.314, 8 HR, 36 RBI) hopefully returning to the lineup, this group of bats is as formidable as they come.
The pitching stole the show in Hoover, but the bats were as advertised and then some.
The point is, after a tough opening loss to Auburn, this team bounced back. It’s simply what they do. They are tough as shit and don’t give a fuck about what happened yesterday. They are present in the moment and it is a complete effort from top-to-bottom. There is an edge to this 2018 edition, a swagger if you will. You can see it in their faces not only when something huge happens, but when things don’t go their way. This bunch is simply never shaken whatsoever.
Which is good, because now you’re playing for a much bigger and the stage will only get bigger, y’all. But, let this be a warning, I’ve given everyone plenty of notice.