On the Verge

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – They've got enough but will they be good enough? Pitching, that is. That is the question. Or one of them, at least, on day three here.

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The Rebels are 2-0 in the NCAA Tournament with wins over TCU and Texas A&M. That's the first worthy item of note.

They haven't beaten a northern team with a mediocre record that slipped in as a four by winning its league tournament or a team that's learning what Regionals are all about.

Friday the Rebels beat a program that's been to nine NCAA Tournaments in a row and to the College World Series two years ago. Then Saturday they defeated the home team before a partisan crowd, a program that was in Omaha just last season.

In the weeks leading up to the selection show, you try to evaluate where you'll go, who you'll play, who is going to host, who you'd rather face, and so on and so forth. But the bottom line is no matter who, what, when, or where, it's the team that plays the best that advances.

Nobody's advanced yet from here. Except Dayton. And they went home after losing to the Aggies and the Horned Frogs.

So back to that original question. Who knows who pitches today? Who starts tonight for Ole Miss?

Mike Bianco and staff may already know. But when last we left them, in the press room at Blue Bell Park late Saturday night, the head coach said he didn't.

They'd see how the day goes. There is game one they aren't in. That's the elimination game between the host team and the team from up the road three hours.

Texas A&M has a lot of pitching left. Looks like sophomore right-hander Rafeal Pineda (5-1, 2.78 ERA, 81 innings) will start against TCU this afternoon. He's had 14 appearances this season, all starts. Chances are freshman right-hander Daniel Mengden (3-3, 2.80 ERA, 45 innings) is also available for tonight's game, if the Ags are still in it. He has 21 appearances but just four starts.

The Horned Frogs will start Stefan Crichton against A&M (8-2, 3.56, 86 innings). He has 18 appearances and 15 starts. The sophomore right-hander started against the Rebels in game two of the February series, went 4.2 innings but gave way to Preston Morrison who got the win.

But we could sit here all day and try to figure out who the potential foes would start tonight. It's Ole Miss that we're wondering about the most.

Tanner Bailey could be the choice. Maybe the likely choice to start. But we haven't seen Chris Ellis, Hawtin Buchanan, Dylan Chavez, Aaron Greenwood, or Josh Laxer pitch here yet. Among the regulars, that is.

Aggies huddle to talk things over
Patrick Ochs

Coming into College Station, Bianco has said his team hasn't played its best baseball. Whether or not it's playing its best baseball right now is debatable. But the Rebels are playing better. And they've taken advantage of some good teams not playing as well. Like the Aggies making three errors Saturday night.

But the top of the lineup is giving the Rebels a lot of help. Tanner Mathis has been an effective leadoff man, on base most every time. Alex Yarbrough's RBI triple was such a key to game one. The Rebels were down 2-0 when that happened. Matt Snyder's ground ball got Yarbrough home to tie it up. Ole Miss moved on to a 6-2 win.

The Rebels fell behind Texas A&M Saturday night, again 2-0. But they responded immediately to tie the game. This team's focus and drive right now is apparent in the way it comes back from being down. The last couple of weeks that didn't seem to be the case. Being down 2-0 might as well have been 6-0 the way it felt.

Their demeanor in the press room Saturday night was all business. R.J. Hively, serious as usual, was matter of fact in getting the job done - again. Mike Mayers, another serious personality, was asked, after the official press conference was over, if he could go again today.

That's why I've got my arm iced right now, he said. I think he meant it. I think.

That's what postseason is all about. Doing more than you've done all season – individually and as a team.

During 56-game regular seasons it's all about pace. Never too high, never too low. Winning six games in a row, like Ole Miss did in the early part of the season, is fine but keep it in perspective.

Losing six of their last seven heading here was a downer. But it wasn't the end of the line, as the past two days attest.

Ole Miss fans more than most know not to count wins a sure thing in this situation. Two teams seeded higher than the Rebels still remain. One of them will still be around tonight.

Either will have their back against the wall. One will have a loud and supportive home crowd behind it. But the Aggies had that Saturday night, and the Rebels pushed through and won.

Jake Overbey's come through, especially defensively. Austin Knight's come in and caught effectively. We'll see more of that from some players who haven't played much. Especially if the Rebels keep playing more and more games.

It's what teams who keep winning in the postseason must have. And that's what we've seen from the Ole Miss Rebels the past two games.

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