SEC Sunday

BATON ROUGE – It’s Sunday morning and Ole Miss has a chance later today to do something no Rebel baseball team has done since 1982. Win a series here.

The Rebels lost 6-4 Friday night and won in dramatic fashion 5-3 Saturday night, a four-plus hour, 14-inning game that was an instant classic.

Now the unranked Rebels can not only get back into the polls if they beat No. 1 LSU today, they can put themselves in a position few thought possible only a day ago.

In the big picture, winning a game here was important. They didn't need to get swept. Winning the series would launch some serious momentum a young team’s way.

They had a chance to win Friday night. But for a hit or two they did not get, the Rebels could be 2-0 this weekend.

As it is, at 10-8 overall and 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play, they can move on to today’s 3 p.m. (SEC Network) game, let ‘er rip, and see what happens.

Sam Smith, who has struggled this year, gets his third start in eight days. At Louisville, in the Rebels’ 8-3 victory on Wednesday, Smith was the best he’s been all season. The veteran senior from Lake Charles, La., should bring some confidence into today’s start.

LSU (17-2, 1-1) has already used 10 pitchers this weekend – three of those 10 in both games. RHP Jake Godfrey at 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA will start for the Tigers. He will be another tough pitcher for the Rebels to deal with here.

Ole Miss has struck out 34 times in 23 innings in two games. Senior Sikes Orvis said the Rebels have to keep swinging and enjoying things, and it will get better.

“Coming from a guy who strikes out a lot, you cannot let it get to you,” Orvis, with three hits and two RBI Saturday night, said. “Just keep swinging. You’re not going to hit the ball if you don’t swing. Just keep swinging and enjoy it. You’d rather go down swinging than looking. Maybe work on that two-strike approach a little bit. But we’ll be fine.”

The toughness last year’s team that went to the College World Series displayed appears to be surfacing for this year’s ballclub. That was as difficult an environment as a visiting team could play in Saturday night. And the Rebels, for the most part, stood toe to toe with the Tigers before more than 12,000 fans, and ultimately prevailed.

After starter Brady Bramlett pitched seven superb innings, Scott Weathersby and Wyatt Short were phenomenal in keeping the Rebels in the game until the offense finally broke through with two runs in the 14th. Then Will Stokes was lights out to close it out.

These are two powerhouse baseball programs going at it head to head. Both of them are capable of winning this series, although LSU was and is the favorite to do so.

But this is baseball and anything can happen.

It’s too early for any one game to mean too much. But as Mike Bianco always says, they all count the same. A win or a loss in March counts the same as a win or a loss in May.

But Saturday night could prove to be a turning point for a team that had experienced a lot of ups and downs so far. This is an Ole Miss team that needed something positive to happen to it after a 16-4 shellacking at the hands of Stetson in Oxford just a week ago.

So they went to Louisville and split with a Top Ten team. Now they’ve won one game against No. 1 LSU on the road. Saturday night, seven of nine Rebel defensive starters were freshmen or sophomores, including pitcher Bramlett.

Another opportunity awaits this Ole Miss team today. We’ll see where this weekend takes them from here.

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