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OXFORD, Miss. — When the 2022 baseball season opened back in February, hopes were high in Oxford. Ole Miss was ranked in the top five in pre-season polls and returned a lineup that had earned a Super Regional berth in 2021.
What no one expected, however, was that with two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Rebels would be fighting for their postseason lives.
Don’t count them out, however, as head coach Mike Bianco’s bunch seems to be finding its groove.
You heard the man. pic.twitter.com/9JR9Yh4FBI
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) May 9, 2022
Ole Miss will continue its quest for postseason action as the team travels to Hattiesburg to play Southern Miss tonight.
Prior to last weekend, Ole Miss (27-19, 10-14 SEC) had dropped four consecutive SEC series and was just 1-8 at home in conference play, with the only victory coming in game one against rival Mississippi State.
When Missouri arrived in Oxford for a weekend series to start the month of May, the Tigers were tied with Ole Miss for 12th in the SEC and both squads found themselves on the outside looking in for the league tournament in Hoover.
With the Rebels facing three top 25 teams over the final two weeks of the season, winning the Missouri series was critical in order to maintain postseason hopes.
Although Missouri jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in Friday’s game-one contest, the Rebels bounced back to win, 7-5, and they never looked back, taking game two (8-1) and game three (10-2).
Kemp Alderman and Kevin Graham both had career games over the course of the weekend, and Ole Miss would secure its first SEC sweep of the year, bringing its RPI inside the top 60.
In order to make the NCAA tournament, the prevailing thought is the Rebels will need to see their RPI reach 40 or better. Entering into tonight’s contest at Southern Miss (36-12), Ole Miss is at 55. The Golden Eagles RPI is 17.
After falling, 10-7, to Southern Miss in Pearl earlier this season, the Rebels will look to not only avenge that loss, but to increase their RPI at the same time.
Things won’t get any easier this weekend as Ole Miss travels to Baton Rouge to face off with No. 14 LSU (33-15, 14-10 SEC). Not only are the Tigers ranked in the top 25 overall, their RPI is 16. Therefore, with a good performance against the Golden Eagles and the Tigers, Ole Miss could suddenly find itself with a much more realistic shot at the postseason.
The Rebels will finish off the current road trip with a game at Arkansas State (11-32) on May 17. The Red Wolves currently have an RPI of 220, which is a number the Rebels would rather not even see at this point in the season.
But if Ole Miss takes care of business in Jonesboro, the Rebs have another golden opportunity when they return to Oxford to take on No. 10 Texas A&M (30-16, 16-6 SEC) May 19-21 at Swayze. The Aggies’ RPI is currently at 20.
Ole Miss will then look to make a run in Hoover at the SEC Tournament, affectionately known around Oxford as “The Ole Miss Invitational.”
Tonight’s contest in Hattiesburg will see Drew McDaniel (4-2, 5.27 ERA) face off with Matt Adams (4-2, 5.84 ERA). First pitch is set for a 6 p.m. (CT). The game is streaming on ESPN+
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)
Austin has more than ten years in sports media, including sports talk radio, play-by-play broadcasting and journalism. He has followed Ole Miss athletics for his entire life and has covered the Rebels and the rest of the SEC while working in the Memphis media market. Outside of sports media, Austin is a musician and outdoorsman. Before a serious accident forced him to be medically discharged, he was a multi-media journalist with the Mississippi National Guard.