I think if you polled most Ole Miss fans before the SEC-opening series at No. 1 South Carolina the prevailing thought would have been to go to Columbia and “get one.”
The Rebels did that, but when you get that win in the first game it’s disappointing not to take the series.
On Friday night, Chris Ellis’ start was effective, good enough for him to move to 3-0, but the numbers were not his best. He made it into the sixth inning but pitched around a lot of hits, 10. He walked three and struck out three.
South Carolina starter Jordan Montgomery pitched longer, actually finishing the sixth, and gave up fewer hits, but he gave up the grand slam to Auston Bousfield. If Bousfield doesn’t connect there — and if everything else would have gone on to play out the same — the Rebels would have gotten swept.
Bottom line is Ole Miss was competitive and fought for three games. The Rebels had a great chance to win the series, and it stings to watch Game 2 slip away like it did by losing a three-run lead in the ninth.
The Ole Miss bullpen saved the win Friday night but still has some work to do. There are several guys who have been effective at different times, but Mike Bianco is still looking for that one guy who can come in and be strong over a long span.
It was good to see a quality start from Christian Trent after coming off a sub-par start for Trent against UALR in his last outing.
Sam Smith had a very good outing in Game 3, going seven innings with three runs, two earned, six hits, a walk and five strikeouts. The Rebels couldn’t muster the offense in Game 3.
A few notes on the offense.
South Carolina pitched Bousfield much more successfully after Friday night. He had three hits in the opener and one the rest of the way.
Will Allen came on in the last two games, however, with six hits over the last two games. He had one hit in the opener.
It was a nice SEC weekend for Brantley Bell, whose bat earned him a spot in the lineup during the run-up to conference play. He was 0-for-4 in Game 3 but had multi-hit games in Games 1 and 2.
The Rebels, 17-4, are back in action Wednesday at 6:30 at home against Arkansas State. The Red Wolves are 11-8 overall and opened Sun Belt play this weekend with a sweep of UALR by scores of 3-0, 5-3 and 4-3.
Ole Miss is at home this weekend against Missouri.
Shifting gears to basketball …
The NYC Buckets guys don’t have Ole Miss in the NIT field but has the Rebels in a group it calls “good teams that should seriously be considering CBI or CIT bids.”
This projection squares with Andy Kennedy’s take on things Friday night/Saturday morning after the Rebels lost 75-73 to Georgia in the SEC tournament. Kennedy thought Ole Miss needed Missouri to make the NCAAs to potentially open another spot for an SEC team. Right now Joe Lunardi has Missouri in his “next four out,” which means the Tigers are in a group of the top eight on the outside of the NCAA field.
That next four out as SEC fingerprints all over it. Arkansas joins Missouri in the group which also includes North Carolina State (under former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried) and a guy who has been mentioned as a candidate for the Auburn job, former Ole Miss player and assistant Michael White. White’s Louisiana Tech team appears NIT bound .
As I mentioned Saturday morning, I thought Georgia would separate itself from Ole Miss sooner in the SEC quarters. The Rebels played hard and put themselves in position to win with a couple of last shots. Both of those missed shots — the first by Marshall Henderson, the second by Jarvis Summers — had the look of leg-weariness.
I’m not sure an Ole Miss-Kentucky matchup in the semifinals would have been nearly as close. Kentucky is playing really well right now, and leg-weariness tends to show up most in the semis if one team is playing its third game. By the time the championship game rolls around both teams are playing at least their third game in three days.