Hoover Sweeper

HOOVER, Ala. – Ole Miss is headed home. Few are surprised. LSU, a strong contender for a top eight national seed when the NCAA Tournament field is announced, eliminated the Rebels from the Southeastern Conference Tournament Thursday with an 11-2 final score.

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Ole Miss kept it close early but faded late. That's kind of been the way the season has gone for the Rebels. Ranked all season with an RPI often among the Top 20, the last two weeks haven't been kind to Ole Miss with six losses in their last seven games.

Will that kind of finish eliminate them from the NCAA Tournament? Not likely. But it could push them from a solid two seed, which most felt they were a couple of weeks ago with a potential shot at a No. 1 seed and a host role, to perhaps even a three seed.

Although few "experts" here were willing to say "for sure" that the Rebels are in, most feel they will play again next week.

In their own clubhouse, so does Alex Yarbrough.

Alex Yarbrough
Bruce Newman

"I think we're still feeling OK after today," said the junior second baseman who was 5-for-8 the last two games. "We've just got to keep working toward the Regional on whatever it is that will help us get more runs across the plate."

That's been a problem for the Rebels. It was again Thursday. In three games here they scored a total of four runs – a 2-0 loss to Kentucky, a 2-0 win against Arkansas, and the nine-run loss to the Tigers.

It wasn't going to be easy to score runs Thursday since Ole Miss was facing LSU's ace Kevin Gausman. The sophomore right-hander allowed two runs on seven hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. His relievers, Chris Cottom and Kurt McCune, were just as good, allowing a combined one hit and no runs.

The Rebels were were only down 4-2 heading into the eighth inning but carried no momentum. The Tigers unleashed an offense in the final two frames off Rebel relievers that left this one as a no-doubter.

"Obviously LSU's very good and the game got away from us at the end," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "We hung in there until the end but just kind of ran out of juice."

Jake Overbey
Bruce Newman

Actually some of the "juice" was gone before the game started. It was announced Wednesday starter R.J. Hively might not be able to pitch. He would have started but arm soreness indicated Wednesday still was bothering him Thursday.

"He said he feels a little bit better, but even if we'd won today and gotten to tomorrow, it wouldn't have been worth the risk throwing him," Bianco said. "If it was one of those at the end of the year things, I'm sure he would have wanted the ball. But you weigh that. He's feeling better and I feel very confident that he'll pitch in a Regional. He just wasn't able to go today."

LSU (43-15) got 17 hits to Ole Miss' 8. The Rebels (35-24) left six on base and LSU 10.

Gausman (10-1) got the win. Rebel starter Tanner Bailey, who went three innings allowing three runs on seven hits with a walk and two strikeouts, fell to 2-2 with the loss.

Bianco mentioned above running out of juice at the end. In a way, so has this season. But they'll get another chance to "restart" next week.

Most likely.

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