Fortunately, Sunday didn’t matter a whole lot for Ole Miss.
I say that because the Rebels lost to Georgia on the road 13-2 in the series finale, but after winning the first two in the set (including a dramatic win in extra innings on Friday), Ole Miss finishes the regular season at 38-17 and 18-12 in conference play. What’s even more important is that Ole Miss will be hosting a regional regardless of what happens next week in the SEC Tournament.
Speaking of the tournament, the Rebels will enter as the No. 5 seed, just missing the cut for a first-day BYE. Ole Miss will draw Auburn in the 9 p.m. game on Tuesday night (weeeeeeeee), and they are still TBA on who will start on the hill.
You can take some positives and negatives from this weekend’s dance with the Bulldogs.
ON THE POSITIVE SIDE
Ole Miss picked up a road SEC series win, something it hadn’t done since sweeping Alabama in Tuscaloosa in the second week of conference play. Ole Miss did what it needed to do in order to solidify its hosting resume, and picking up some wins in Hoover can only help the Rebels as far as their draw in the tournament is concerned.
After losing its best hitter to an ACL tear and a first-round pick in Gunnar Hoglund to Tommy John, the fact that the Rebels were still able to secure a host spot is a testament to the resiliency of this team. After dropping the horrendous series on the road in College Station, it would have been easy to throw in the towel. This team didn’t do that, and they’ll be rewarded with some more home games next month.
ON THE NEGATIVE SIDE
This team’s pitching depth continues to be a problem. Outside of Doug Nikhazy and a few arms in the bullpen, who do you feel good about taking the ball on any given day? Drew McDaniel has certainly shown flashes along with Derek Diamond, but they both struggle the second time through the order. I think they both have the stuff to be consistent arms in the SEC, but pitching is all about maturation. It’s going to take some time for them to grow into themselves, so to speak.
The lack of depth in the bullpen, regardless of when or where this season ends for the Rebels, will likely be their undoing. It could be anywhere from the regional to Omaha, but this team just doesn’t seem to have the plethora of arms that is needed to win a national title. Hopefully, they’ll make me eat crow, but that’s what I believe to this point.
If Ole Miss manages to make it through its regional, they actually set up okay-to-decent for the super regional round. This team doesn’t seem to think it can lose when Doug Nikhazy is on the hill, and winning one of the two remaining games with Diamond or McDaniel pitching is certainly possible. You’ve just got to A. Get a good outing from one of them, B. Out-hit your opponent like crazy or C. Both.
The regional round is where I have my most concern. Doug Nikhazy shouldn’t pitch game one against the No. 4 seed in Oxford, in my opinion. If Derek Diamond or Drew McDaniel can’t pick up the win against the four seed, they weren’t going to do it against the two seed. Let Doug pitch game two. Of course, I don’t make the decisions, but that’s what I would do.
Either way, we’ve got more baseball on the way for Ole Miss, and that’s a good thing. The Rebels have performed well in the SEC Tournament in recent memory, including winning the whole freakin’ thing before the Tennessee Tech fiasco in the 2018 Oxford Regional. Hoover, on one hand, is kind of pointless this year for Ole Miss. They’ve already got a host spot secured. On the other hand, going deep in the tournament could definitely improve their seed and who their draw is for a super regional.
Personally, I think Ole Miss should simply win as many games as they can. That’s my analysis. Let’s root for that.