Early Exit

HOOVER, Ala. - Ole Miss lost to Alabama 6-1 in the first game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. A dominant performance by Crimson Tide starter Geoffrey Bramblett, with a complete game, was at least one factor.

The consensus was that Ole Miss, already a cinch to be in the NCAA Tournament by those who evaluate such things, likely couldn’t do enough this week to host a Regional. Certainly a few wins in this event could have solidified what many consider to already be a No. 2 seed for the Rebels when the tournament field’s announcements are made on Memorial Day.

The Rebels were the sixth-place finisher in the SEC regular season with a 15-14 mark. Alabama was the 11th place team. The Crimson Tide, with its 12-18 regular season record, needs several wins here to even get into the NCAA Tournament field.

Alabama now improves to 31-26 overall and Ole Miss awaits its NCAA locale with a 30-26 mark.

“It doesn’t take a baseball genius to figure out what happened,” said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. “They outplayed us today. It’s one of the things that makes the Southeastern Conference such an unbelievably good league. Anybody can beat anybody on a given day if you’re not playing well.”

Bramblett was sensational for the Crimson Tide, allowing one run on nine hits with 10 strikeouts.

On the flip side for the Rebels, starter Scott Weathersby made it through the sixth inning and one batter in the seventh. A leadoff single by Riley Colburn and Jacob Waguespack entered to take Weathersby’s place.

But things went from that point to even worse as Alabama scored four runs in the frame, which was concluded with Wyatt Short on the mound.

By that time a major comeback was all that would help the Rebels, and they didn’t have one in them on this day.

“We didn’t have very many opportunities,” Bianco said of the day Bramblett had. “The few we had he made some great pitches and got out of it.”

Weathersby for the most part was effective, had the Rebels mustered any offense.

“I thought Scott pitched well today,” Bianco said. “He had two tough innings.”

Bramblett and the Crimson Tide defense didn’t allow a Rebel runner to get to third base until the eighth. Errol Robinson and Will Golsan singled. Cobly Bortles grounded out to get them to third.

But Bramblett got Sikes Orvis and Austin Knight to strike out to end the late threat.

It was that kind of day for the Rebels against the Alabama starter.

“He did a really good job mixing three pitches in, working in and out,” said Orvis of Bramblett’s performance. “I had a tough time picking him up. He just kept filling up the strike zone.”

Weathersby said earlyon he felt like things were going his way.

“I thought early I was making a lot of pitches and getting ahead,” he said. “I think it was the fifth that they got two runs. Just credit them for sticking with their approach.”

The Tide got 11 hits to the Rebels’ nine in the game. Four Ole Miss players had two hits each – Robinson, Golsan, J.B. Woodman, and Kyle Watson.

Bianco said the Rebels should be in the NCAA Tournament as far as he is concerned, given all they’ve accomplished this season and who they accomplished it against.

“There is a committee of 10 people to decide this,” Bianco said. “I think we have done enough if you look at our resume’ this season. There’s really not a bad spot on it. A good RPI and a winning record in the best baseball conference in the country. We have series wins against Florida and Vanderbilt. Splits with Texas A&M and Louisville, and all those teams are vying for a national seed. This team’s played the No. 1 schedule in the country and made it through that gauntlet.

“Today is unfortunate, and leaving here early doesn’t leave a good taste in your mouth,” Bianco continued. “You don’t want to come here and not play well, for all the reasons. The fans who come all this way, not to have more momentum going into the postseason, all those things. So that’s disappointing.”

Now their attention turns toward Monday and selection day. Stay tuned.

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