Hoover Met

Ole Miss is the sixth seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, which opens Tuesday morning with the Rebels taking on “host” Alabama.

Well, that’s not entirely true. The eleventh-seeded Crimson Tide isn’t actually serving as host but did play its home games this season at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. So they should know the grounds and all its ins and outs better than any other team.

“We do have an advantage of playing in this ballpark all year,” said Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard.

That’s because while the Crimson Tide awaits a brand new stadium on the site of its old one, the team had to play somewhere fairly close. Enter the Hoover Met, just an hour’s bus trip from the Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.

The Crimson Tide is 29-26 overall this season and 12-18 in SEC play.

In SEC games at the Hoover Met, Alabama was only 4-11. On the road, however, the Tide was 8-7.

Like the Rebels, they’ve played their best baseball lately, sweeping Auburn on the road two weekends ago and winning the finale against Vanderbilt in Hoover last weekend after dropping the first two games of that series.

Alabama has won seven of its last nine games. Ole Miss has won six of its last seven games.

The Rebels are 30-25 overall and 15-14 in SEC play. Ole Miss won two of three games against Alabama in Oxford in late April.

“The last couple of weeks we’ve been playing better baseball,” Gaspard said. “We’ve had a pretty long, challenging year with a lot of difficulties as far as our travel and with our new facility coming up. But we’re probably playing as well as we have throughout the course of the year.”

Gaspard said Alabama will need to play well this week to have any shot at advancing into next week’s NCAA Tournament.

“I don’t think there’s any question in the position we’re in, certainly we have to make a deep run to get in the conversation,” he said. “But it’s one game at a time. There’s been some magic in our program in this tournament before.”

Fear The Stache

Sikes Orvis showed up at the Hoover Met as clean shaven as he’s been in a while. A couple of days’ old growth was apparent, but that’s all. The always cool, calm, and collected personality of Orvis was also very much apparent.

“Our mindset is the more games we win, the better it helps us,” said the senior first baseman. “Why not come out here and make a deep run, and help our stake here at the end of the year?”

Orvis said the Rebels are indeed apparently playing their best baseball, having defeated Missouri in the finale of that series, and following that up with a sweep of Mississippi State, a win at Arkansas State, and a split with Texas A&M – then a finale that was washed out last weekend.

“We wanted to play our best baseball late,” Orvis said. “Guys really grew up and matured. We’re playing our best baseball right now.”

Orvis was overlooked during last year’s June draft. Monday he was overlooked as an All-SEC performer, not appearing on any of the teams chosen by the league’s head coaches.

Orvis, as always, shrugged it off as if to say, Let’s go win some more games as a team.

“There’ve been a lot of guys who had some really good years around the SEC,” he said. “I struggled much of the year, and I’ve gotten hot late. At this point, I’m just trying to be productive for our team and win ballgames. I just want to keep winning.”

Closing Things Out

Wyatt Short, the Rebels’ sophomore closer, did make the All-SEC team roster, coming in as a second-team choice by the coaches.

Short was napping on the bus when the announcement came about and said he heard about it as soon as he woke up.

“A couple of people congratulated me,” he said. “I got one text, and that was from my dad.”

The thought among all gathered was that he would have a lot more texts of congratulations following the Rebels’ practice Monday and interview sessions.

Short has been a huge part of not only this year’s Rebel team but also last year’s third-place national finish in the College World Series.

“Experience and not as much nerves going out on the mound,” he noted as keys to his second season success in the program. “I just go out and play. You have to be confident to pitch in the Southeastern Conference.”

Back In The Lineup?

Connor Cloyd, a junior outfielder and DH, could perhaps play this week and maybe even as early as Tuesday. Time will tell.

He pulled his oblique area of muscles at the plate swinging the bat against MSU two weekends ago.

“It’s still a day by day thing,” Cloyd said. “I’m expecting to play and hoping I can get in the lineup. I feel like I could play (Monday). We’ll see how it is (Tuesday). Like I said, it’s day by day. I want to be as healthy as I can.”

Cloyd said the moment of pain in the game when he was injured was intense.

“When I swung, my side popped, and I was told I strained my oblique,” he said. “I’ve never had that before. It was pretty painful.”

Cloyd said swinging the bat is the main thing that aggravates it.

“I’ve been doing a good amount of swinging this week, trying to get back,” he said. “It’s always frustrating to get hurt. You always want to contribute to your team. I just want to get as healthy as possible as soon as possible.”

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