Wake-Up Call

They left Nashville Saturday night after being swept for the first time all season. The Ole Miss baseball team now finds itself limping a bit as it heads to Hoover, Ala., for the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

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The Rebels are the ninth seed in a ten-team field. The expanded tournament from eight to ten is one of the few breaks for Ole Miss this season. They haven't really made many breaks for themselves either.

The assumption is it's a sure thing the Rebels are in the NCAA Tournament, with a RPI still in the low 20s. A 34-24 record, and that's if they happen to go 0-2 in Hoover, would likely still get them in. That's with a 14-16 SEC regular season mark, which is normally good enough to play on.

And any of the four teams they will face in the first two games in Hoover – Kentucky, LSU, Arkansas or Mississippi State – are all currently in the top 30 RPI, and only MSU is not in the top 20.

The Rebels, standing 34-22 overall and 14-16 in league play, were picked fourth in the SEC West in the preseason by the SEC coaches. That is precisely where they finished the regular season.

"Obviously we had a tough weekend at Vanderbilt," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "It was a disappointing way to end the season and we didn't play very well. We need to turn the page, play well, and win some baseball games."

Wahl's World

Bobby Wahl, who will start the Tuesday morning game for Ole Miss and one of the few aces who will start a first game for any team this week, said he's ready. He said he didn't have to convince Bianco to let him start, although they did discuss it.

"He asked me how I was feeling, obviously, and I really wanted to go the first game because I know how important it is," Wahl said. "Hopefully I can give the team a chance to win."

Bianco mentioned that he and Wahl had talked about how to handle this week.

"He and I talked on the bus Saturday night coming back from Vanderbilt," Bianco said. "He said he felt great. He did a short work (Sunday), and he said he felt like he normally feels. For us in our situation, finishing the season as we did, and having your ace feel he's 100 percent, to me to not run him out there is not a good thing."

Wahl also mentioned he got in a little work on Sunday.

"I threw a bullpen (Sunday), a short one, more mechanical and not too long," he said. "Like 25-30 pitches, just getting back off the mound, trying to keep the routine the same."

The sophomore right-hander said he'll be ready even with the early start.

"I'm sure there will be a lot of adrenaline going, even at 9:30 in the morning," Wahl said. "I feel great, and I'm excited for it."

Losing Tuesday morning would mean another 9:30 start Wednesday. Wahl said they certainly hope to win and avoid that.

"I'm sure we'll talk about," he said, smiling. "I'm not much of a morning person. But it's baseball and we'll have a great desire to win. We'll definitely talk about it, that if we don't win we have to play at 9:30 again."

Wahl said a fresh start, which postseason is, will be beneficial for the Rebels.

"The team feels like we're due," he said. "We're really excited for it and with a chance to get hot. It's going to be good for us."

The Rebels are relatively healthy, but shortstop is one spot where they're not. Blake Newalu is still battling shin splints he's had for a few weeks and will play. He played all three days at Vandy. Austin Anderson isn't available because of finger surgery he had late last week after suffering a break in the Arkansas State game a week ago. He likely won't play at all this week, perhaps returning for an NCAA Regional.

Surprising Cats

Kentucky was picked in the preseason even lower in the SEC East than Ole Miss was in the West. The Wildcats were slotted in the No. 5 spot in their division.

But UK has been the surprise team of the league this season, entering Hoover as the fourth seed with a 41-15 overall record, 18-12 in SEC play.

Kentucky took two of three games from Ole Miss in Lexington in early April. UK head coach Gary Henderson said freshman left-handed pitcher A.J. Reed will get the nod Tuesday morning. He's only had four starts but sports a 4-2 record and 3.00 ERA.

Henderson said his team has gotten some breaks in the injury department this season.

"We've been fortunate this year to stay relatively healthy all year," he said. "That's been a real positive for us."

Henderson brings in a team that had the same experience as Ole Miss did last week. Ole Miss lost at Arkansas State and got swept in Nashville. The Wildcats lost to Murray State and then got swept at Mississippi State.

"We've lost four in a row, so we're excited to get back on the field again and hopefully get rid of that streak," Henderson said. "I know Mike's group is in the same spot as we are. So you have two teams that are eager to get going."

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