Before we start, yes the season is not over. But, have no fear, we measured these teams at the end of April. The homestretch if you will. Nevertheless, your favorite podcast boys recently took a deep dive into this year’s No. 4 Rebels’ offense and how they have gotten to 35-11 overall and 12-9 in the Southeastern Conference with a top 10 RPI.
As of this writing, the good guys are hitting .301 as a team and are top five in every single major offensive category in the SEC. Mike Bianco’s lineup has five every day players hitting over .300 and the others are just below it; Cole Zabowski at .299, Nick Fortes at .295, Will Golsan at .277, and Jacob Adams at .267, bringing up the “rear”. And now they have two capable bats coming off the bench for match up purposes in Michael Fitzsimmons (.467) and Tim Rowe (.317).
But, today we’re going to talk about the entire body of work: wins and losses. Over the years Bianco has had some very, very good teams that have just narrowly missed and have been to the mountaintop. But, the teams that we’re going to focus on are the Super Regional teams from 2005, 2006, and 2009, the 2014 College World Series team, and the 2016 club that went 18-12 in conference.
So let’s take a gander shall we?
35-11 (12-9 SEC)
- No. 4 ranking following a series win over LSU
- No. 8 RPI*
- No. 7 ranking following a series win over No. 8 LSU
- No. 6 RPI*
- No. 10 ranking following a series sweep at No. 17 Kentucky
- No. 4 RPI*
- No. 7 ranking following a series win over No. 1 Georgia
- No. 15 RPI*
- No. 17 ranking following a series sweep of Tennessee
- No. 21 RPI*
- No. 18 ranking following a series sweep of Mississippi State
- No. 8 RPI*
EDITOR’S NOTE: * = ranking at the start of May
So first things first, let’s look at the now before comparing past seasons. This year’s club has the highest ranking to this point of the season in the major polls when comparing the other’s (Baseball America No. 3, Perfect Game No. 4, USA Today No. 5). They also have the most wins, narrowly beating out 2014 (33) and 2016 (33). And looking at the RPI, they are 8th currently and may drop a bit because of their schedule, but regardless the case has been made for the committee up to this point. The Rebs finish with South Carolina (No. 48) and Alabama (No. 72) on the road and Auburn (No. 6) sandwiched between at Swayze.
If the Rebs are going to continue their run towards a national seed, they will need to certainly close strong. And by closing strong I mean winning every series and possibly sweeping a really, really, really, bad Alabama team on the road before heading to Hoover for the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Not much separates these six teams through 21 SEC games. But, with Bianco at the helm, it’s not about how you start, it’s always been about how you finish. Here are the final RPI rankings before the final three series the Rebels had yet to play at this point in the season.
- at No. 49 South Carolina
- vs. No. 6 Auburn
- at No. 67 Alabama
- at No. 27 Georgia (won 2-of-3)
- vs. No. 40 Kentucky (swept)
- at No. 5 Texas A&M (lost 2-of-3)
- vs. No. 40 Arkansas (won 2-of-3)
- vs. No. 52 Georgia (won 2-of-3)
- at No. 25 Texas A&M (won 2-of-3)
- at No. 34 Auburn (swept)
- No. 98 Mississippi State (lost 2-of-3)
- at No. 12 Arkansas (swept)
- at No. 28 Kentucky (got swept)
- vs. No. 12 Arkansas (won 2-of-3)
- at No. 22 Mississippi State (won 2-of-3)
- at No. 17 Auburn (lost 2-of-3)
- vs. No. 13 South Carolina (won 2-of-3)
- at No. 15 Arkansas (swept)
The first thing you’ll notice is how many of these series were on the road. Because Ole Miss asks the SEC office for a home series for Double Decker (in late April) and graduation weekend (the second weekend in May), the Rebels tend to play six of their last nine on the road and as a matter of fact, 11-of-18 series from these six seasons were played on the road. Bianco and his clubs finishing 29-16 in those games (27 of which were on the road) is a testament to how strong his top teams have finished and how tough they’ve been on the road.
And as you know, good teams win, but elite teams win on the road.
Aside from the 2016 team (don’t remind me) all of these teams ended the year in an opportune situation in the postseason. In fact, other than the 2014 team (and 2016 obviously), every team above was within one win of making it to the College World Series. And if this year’s team can finish at least 6-3 these final three weekends then it will be off to a fantastic start to making yet another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Sure, they’ll have to show up in Hoover and win one or two to appease the voters and “solidify” their standing among the nation’s elite, but the potential of sporting a 12-2 record in weekend series and possibly finishing tops in the SEC West should be more than enough to be a top eight national seed.
But, let’s not kid ourselves, we have been in this situation before several times. The season can go according to plan...
...or it can go up in smoke just like that.