Regular Season Finale

No matter the situation, there's always something to play for the last week of baseball's regular season. Even Alabama and Tennessee, two teams wrapping up their years, will be trying to win games and use the momentum toward next season.

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In the case of Ole Miss, which begins a three-game series today at 6:30 p.m. at Vanderbilt, the Rebels can finish anywhere, mathematically, from fourth place in the Southeastern Conference standings to ninth – depending on what happens in Nashville and around the rest of the league.

And then there is playing for a better seed in the NCAA Tournament in two weeks, and the chance that the Rebels could still host if they win games and other teams they are competing against to host across the country lose them.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said he has talked to his team about how to keep all that in perspective as the Rebels, 34-19 overall and 14-13 in Southeastern Conference play, get set to play again.

"We thought as a staff it was good to give my opinion and what I think they should know and how the process works," he said. "Because there is so much information out there, you know they understand what's going on. But because there is so much information, I think we could lose track of what we're supposed to do, and that's just to win this baseball game, and to win this weekend, and so on."

"The best thing we can do is to go to Vanderbilt and win as many games as we can," Bianco continued. "Get to the SEC Tournament and win as many games as we can."

Vanderbilt has been in a rebuilding year. The Commodores' overall record indicates that. But they've played well lately, and their record also shows that. Recent games have them trending upward.

Vandy is only 26-25 overall and 13-14 in SEC play. But in a "what have you done for me lately" world, few in the league have done more recently than the Commodores. They've beaten Kentucky two of three, Tennessee two of three, and last weekend won two of three at LSU. Overall they're 9-3 in their last 12 games.

Bousfield hopes the Rebels play their best baseball this weekend
Bruce Newman

"They're playing really well," Bianco said. "They're going to bunt, steal, make some things happen offensively, and they've been successful. They've got a lot of young arms, but they've been pitching better lately. We haven't played them in a couple of years, and since we don't play them until the last weekend this year, you don't follow them too much. But now they're pitching better and playing better."

One of Vandy's weekend starters, freshman right-hander Tyler Beede, appears to be out for the weekend. Arm soreness seems to have sidelined him. He started last Sunday's 5-4 Commodore win in Baton Rouge but with no decision.

Beede, a first-round MLB draft choice last summer who chose college, has 10 starts and 13 appearances this season. He was the 21st pick of the draft by the Blue Jays and was the lone first-rounder of 2011 not to sign a pro contract. Thus far in 2012, he has a 4.33 ERA and a record of 1-4.

The Commodore starters now are sophomore RHP T.J. Pecoraro (0-4, 4.12 ERA) today, junior LHP Sam Selman (8-3, 4.03) Friday, and sophomore LHP Kevin Ziomek (3-6, 5.02) Saturday.

The Rebels will counter with sophomore right-hander Bobby Wahl (6-1, 2.18) today and sophomore right-hander Mike Mayers (4-2, 4.04) Friday. The Saturday starter will once again be TBA to see if senior right-hander R.J. Hively is available as he was last weekend against Tennessee. Hively started the finale against the Vols after pitching a couple of innings on Friday night.

It's the time of year a college baseball player lives for. There is no class anymore now that the school year has ended. There's a huge conference weekend that awaits. Then the conference tournament, this year beginning a day early with the addition of two teams for a 10-team field, is next week. And the NCAA postseason follows.

Ole Miss freshman centerfielder Auston Bousfield, who was in high school a year ago at this time so obviously not having been through it before, said tonight's game is the beginning of yet another key stretch of games for the Rebels.

"It's very important," said Bousfield, the speedster who was moved to the two-hole in the lineup for a game this week at Arkansas State. "We still think we have a chance to host if we keep playing well. We can't worry about what everyone else is doing. We just have to go to Vanderbilt and play our best and see how it goes."

Tonight's game is live on ESPNU.

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