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Mike Bianco believes Ole Miss playing its best baseball heading into SEC tourney

Mike Bianco believes Ole Miss playing its best baseball heading into SEC tourney
Rebels vs Arkansas

The Rebels are one of seven SEC teams to win 18 league games this season. (Photo credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

With Saturday’s 3-2 win over Texas A&M in game three of the series, Mike Bianco hopes his Ole Miss team grew up a little more–especially with the 10th-seeded Georgia Bulldogs awaiting the Rebels in Hoover, Alabama.

Prior to Saturday’s win, Ole Miss was on the verge of heading into the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament with four-straight losses–a midweek loss against Arkansas State and defeats in the first two games of the series to No. 1 Texas A&M–something Bianco didn’t want hanging over the team’s head at the start of postseason.

“We are excited to start postseason,” Bianco said Monday in the SEC Baseball Coaches’ Media Teleconference.

(Click here for SEC Baseball Tournament Bracket.)

The Tuesday afternoon matchup against Georgia is a single-elimination game, meaning the losing team’s time in Hoover will officially be over. Bianco believes his Rebels are ready to make a run in the league tournament.

Another terrific year, especially for us, a tremendous second half of the season in SEC play. I think we’re playing our best baseball at this time of the year.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco

Bianco has been in postseason play on many occasions and has been on both sides of the scoreboard when the final out was recorded. He knows this year’s tournament will be challenging for all the teams participating.

Ole Miss (40-16, 18-12 SEC) is one of seven teams to finish SEC play with at least 18 wins. There have never been more than four teams in the conference tournament who finished with 18 league wins in one season; this year there are seven who reached that mark. Also, this season marked the first time that six SEC teams have won 40 regular-season games.

And Ole Miss is one of them.

I don’t know if I have ever seen a year where there were so many really good teams. When you look at the RPI and the rankings and all of those things, I think it’s going to be a tremendous feel there this week.

Mike Bianco on the great teams in this year’s tourney

Rebels victorious over Bulldogs in regular-season series 

Woodman5

Georgia coach Scott Stricklin knows J.B. Woodman is dangerous at the plate for the Rebels. (Photo credit; Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

Bianco may be correct about the tremendous energy every player, coach and fan base will bring to Hoover Met Stadium, but the Rebels can’t afford to lose focus as the Bulldogs will look to avenge losing to Ole Miss two-out-of-three times in Athens, Georgia back during the first weekend of May.

Ole Miss won the first two games, 6-4 and 7-3, but Georgia got the best of the Rebels in the finale, defeating Ole Miss 13-2. The Bulldogs hit three homeruns – one each from Michael Curry, Skyler Weber and Nick King – in that game and recorded seven RBI with the bases loaded.

Georgia’s head coach impressed with Rebels

It’s always good to have played an opponent a handful of times in the regular season before postseason play begins.

Georgia’s third-year head coach Scott Stricklin hasn’t forgotten about the Rebels’ pitching, led by reliever Andy Pagnozzi and closer Wyatt Short – in their 6-4 victory of the series opener.

Stricklin also still remembers the three homeruns – two by J.B. Woodman and one by Holt Perdzock – that helped Ole Miss nail the 7-3 victory and clinch the series.

First of all, I was really impressed with their bullpen. I thought their bullpen arms were good all weekend long. (Brady) Bramlett came out of the game early on Friday and they really did a great job coming out of the bullpen with Pagnozzi, (Brady) Feigl and others. They pitched extremely well.

Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin on Ole Miss pitching

Stricklin knows the Rebels will be dangerous at the plate.

Then you have (Errol) Robinson. Robinson really heated up against us; he had some big hits. You have to keep him off base and you have to be really careful with Woodman. He’s a great player. (Henri) Lartigue has had a great year. I think their lineup, one through nine, is very good.

Scott Stricklin on Rebel batters

Scouting the Bulldogs

The Bulldogs (27-29) have had an up-and-down season, losing three of their final four games – two against Tennessee and one against Georgia Tech – in the ninth inning, and mustering only 11 wins in league play. Georgia is not in position to host a game in the NCAA Regionals, but solid pitching efforts from senior right-handed pitcher Heath Holder (4-4, 3.34 ERA) and the bullpen could help the Bulldogs’ chances.

“You have to have a great start from your pitcher, kind of keep the bullpen fresh and just move to the next day,” Stricklin said. “But it’s a grind; it’s a challenge for everybody. But at the end of the day, it’s the team with the deepest pitching and the starters that can go the deepest in the game are going to give the team a chance to win.”

Game Information

Matchup: No. 7 seed Ole Miss vs. No. 10 seed Georgia (1:00 p.m. CST)

Date: May 24, 2016

Location: Hoover, Ala.

Venue: Hoover Met

Television: SEC Network (Clay Matvick, play-by-play; Ben McDonald, analyst)

Radio: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Keith Kessinger, analyst)

Live Audio: OleMissSports.com

Series: Ole Miss leads 39-38

RW_Sec_Baseball_Bracket_2016

(Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

About The Author

Courtney Smith

Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men's basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.

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