Still Something To Play For

It's pretty simple from an Ole Miss perspective. Win two games at Arkansas this weekend or else. Well, at least or else as far as Hoover goes.

The Rebels, 12-15 in SEC play, need some help, too. And there are several scenarios that could leave the Rebels either in or out after that. If they win all three games, they're all but a lock. Two and we'll see, but likely.

But winning even one might be a tough task, depending on which Ole Miss team shows up. And which Arkansas team.

The Rebels, 28-23 overall with a home game Tuesday night against Southeast Missouri State, have played well at times. And they've looked downright awful at times. Look no further back than the three games against Mississippi State this past weekend.

My dad says he had a coach years ago that told them some games you win, some you lose, and some you give away. The Rebels, with their four errors, struggles on the mound, poor execution at times, and lack of timely hitting (except that three-run homer by Alex Yarbrough in the seventh inning), gave away the series opener against State.

They just plain lost game two, and in game three they won in a runaway after taking a 6-0 lead in the first inning.

So there you go. Season 2011 so far in a nutshell. It's been an enjoyable team to watch at times, but too many times not so much.

Alex Yarbrough
Bruce Newman
Arkansas has to have some wins to get to Hoover as well. A sweep at the hands of the Rebels and the Razorbacks are in trouble. Right now the Hogs are 13-14 in SEC play and overall stand at 33-17 with a home game against Tennessee-Martin Tuesday night.

The Razorbacks have been just as much a mystery as any other team in the SEC West this season. Nobody seems to want the title. How many are really title worthy is anybody's guess.

Get this. Fifth-place Ole Miss and sixth-place LSU can still claim the SEC West crown under certain scenarios. But we'll leave that alone for now. The Rebels had better focus only on Thursday night, that one game at a time deal.

The first contest of an SEC series hasn't been kind to Ole Miss lately. The Rebels have lost four straight first games. The last time they won one was Grove Bowl weekend's sweep of Kentucky.

In addition to the Rebels and the Razorbacks, this weekend finds LSU (33-19, 11-16) at Mississippi State (32-19, 13-14). Alabama (31-22, 13-14) hosts South Carolina. Auburn (28-24, 13-14) plays at Tennessee.

That's a four-way tie for first place in the SEC West among MSU, Auburn, Alabama, and Arkansas. The Rebels are just a game back, and LSU one more game back of that.

Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco has always said there's something to play for the final weekend of every season. He said he's always known that to be the case.

Certainly this weekend, that's the situation for every team in the SEC West. There will be an awful lot of scoreboard watching throughout the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana as their teams play the three most important games of the season so far.


Following the 12-3 beatdown of Mississippi State in the series finale Saturday night, the Rebels were collectively kicking themselves for not winning at least one of the first two games and making things a little easier on themselves than they are now.

Blake Newalu
Bruce Newman
But because of the win, they also felt a lift heading into the four games this week, starting with SEMO Tuesday night.

"We consider every game from here on out a must win," said sophomore Alex Yarbrough, who was moved from his usual spot at second base to third base for the last game against the Bulldogs. "We have to win to keep our hopes alive."

Yarbrough said he and his other infield mates, Austin Anderson who played shortstop and Blake Newalu who played second base, found out about three hours before the game they'd be moving.

"It worked out pretty well tonight," he said. "It's a little awkward for me over there. I think that's the first game I've ever started (at third base), at least a game that counted. I got more and more comfortable as the game went along."

Matt Snyder, the designated hitter, said the Rebels know the situation they're in, and they hope to continue to build on the last game against the arch rival.

"We know we didn't have the weekend we wanted," he said. "We had to win this one. We came out and swung the bat really well. This win (Saturday) was big to keep us in it. We've got to go to Arkansas and play three games like we did this one. I was proud of the way we played tonight."

Fayetteville is a place where Ole Miss has had its best road success among all SEC baseball locales recently. The Rebels' record is 8-1 in their last nine games there.

In 2007, Ole Miss won two games and lost one in extra innings. In 2005 and again in 2009, the Rebels swept the Razorbacks. Two years ago the sweep allowed them to claim the SEC overall regular season title.

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