Ole Miss and Georgia play at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the SEC Tournament

The No. 7 seed Rebels will open up the SEC Tournament on Tuesday against the No. 10 Seed Bulldogs at 1 p.m. CT in Hoover, Ala.

By: Jeff Roberson

HOOVER, Ala. - The Ole Miss baseball team sat in the stands past first base Monday afternoon and watched the Tennessee Volunteers practice. Their own practice time would be after the Vols were done.

The Rebels were at the top of the stands in the shade, awaiting their time on the Hoover Met, as the late spring southern sun beamed down around them.

It’s been a sunny season so far for the 2016 edition of Rebel baseball. Likely not many people predicted a 40-win regular season for them, but here they sit with just that. A 40-16 record and an 18-12 Southeastern Conference regular season mark is what the Rebels take into a 1 p.m. game against Georgia on Tuesday.

The Rebels were good, and sometimes really good, as they rolled through the regular season’s 56 games. But so were many teams in the SEC. Ole Miss is the seventh seed, which with their sparkling record is hard to believe. The top four – Mississippi State, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Florida – don’t play until Wednesday.

LSU is the fifth seed and Vanderbilt the sixth seed. All of them are good teams. The SEC is as strong as ever and maybe stronger.

Georgia is the 10th seed, entering Tuesday afternoon’s game with a 27-29 mark and an 11-19 SEC record. One of their 11 is a 13-2 win against Ole Miss in the series finale three weeks ago in Athens. Two of the 19 are losses to the Rebels.

 

In game one of the series, junior Errol Robinson accounted for all of the Rebels’ runs, going 3-for-5 with two runs and a career-high four RBI, finishing just a home run shy of the cycle in a 6-4 UM victory. In game two, Ole Miss used three home runs, including two by junior J.B. Woodman, to win 7-3. Senior Holt Perdzock hit his first career home run as well, helping the Rebels clinch the weekend series. 

 

On the mound Tuesday for Georgia is senior Heath Holder (4-4, 3.34 ERA), who holds the best record among UGA’s starting pitchers. In the lone win the Bulldogs got against the Rebels, Holder was the starter.

 

Ole Miss will counter with ace Brady Bramlett, the junior right-hander with a 7-3 mark and a 3.19 ERA.

 

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Against Georgia, in a 6-4 Rebel win, Bramlett went four innings with four runs on eight hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

 

Bramlett started last Thursday at Texas A&M and went 5.1 innings, allowing four runs on six hits with no walks and four strikeouts. Ole Miss lost 6-1.

 

“I feel good. Body feels good,” said Bramlett, some 24 hours prior to his start against Georgia here. “It’s like going back to high school ball when we had a five-man rotation. It’s kind of like going back to that old routine. Coach (Mike Bianco) asked me yesterday how I felt, and if I was ready to go. Of course I’m ready to compete for us no matter what. So I’m ready to go and we’re playing good baseball.”

 

Bramlett said he’s worked slowly to get back to pitching form for tomorrow, even with the short rest.

 

“Normally (Tuesday) would be my bullpen day, if I was starting on Friday,” he said. “I would throw a bullpen (Tuesday) for a Thursday start. (Sunday) I just did short work, and I just worked on spotting up, nothing extreme where my body will feel good for (Tuesday).”

 

So on Tuesday, the Rebels’ ace will start and pitch and see how things go. Bramlett said the plan for him is to go as long as he can.

 

“Coach Bianco said ‘You go as far as you can go as much as you can go, and we’ll work from there.”

 

Georgia presents a challenge, as do all SEC hitters. But Bramlett said he believes he is ready for the challenge.

 

“They’re an aggressive swinging ball club,” he said. “For me, (the series opener three weeks ago) was one of my outings where I struggled with location, which is odd for me. So I feel confident going (Tuesday), and I feel I’m back to my old self again.”

 

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Will Stokes has been huge for the Rebels this season, an important piece of the bullpen, and one of the major reasons Ole Miss is in the position that it is.

 

With 26 appearances in 35 innings this season, Stokes has six saves, second only to Wyatt Short’s 11. It’s been a better, more confident Stokes than we saw as a freshman last season.

 

“A year makes a lot of difference with confidence,” he said. “So that’s probably the biggest thing, and also experience. I think I’ve matured a little bit and realized you have to locate a lot more in this league. And my changeup has improved a little. That’s been a big difference.”

 

Stokes said his closer mate, Short, has had a terrific year. He’s glad to be a part of arguably the SEC’s best one-two back-end punch.

 

“Wyatt’s thrown incredible like he always does,” Stokes said. “And we are a little bit interchangeable. It’s nice to be able to pitch before him or after him.”

 

Stokes said the overall bullpen has tried to do its job every time it’s been called upon. And much of the time it’s been successful.

 

“The bullpen has done really well for us this year,” he said. “The starters give us as long as they can go, and we go out and do our best to try to minimize, throw strikes and fill up the zone.”

 

Stokes said he likes being a part of the bullpen, and he believes as the season has moved on he has remained consistent.

 

“I feel the same,” he said. “I’m as confident as I was early in this season. No matter what happens, I try to stay confident.”

 

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Do the Rebels need another win, or have they done enough already – to host a NCAA Regional next week in Oxford, that is? Georgia is a chance to pad the resume’ even more, if they get a win Tuesday.

 

The Rebels carry a No. 6 RPI, while Georgia currently is at No. 34.

 

“I think we’ve done enough. I think we have a pretty good resume’. But we’re not done yet,” said senior outfielder Cameron Dishon, in his fourth postseason with the team. “We can definitely add to it by doing well in (the SEC) Tournament. We need to go out there and do our job and let everything else take care of itself.”

 

Junior shortstop Errol Robinson said postseason baseball is unique.

 

“We want to really focus on putting ourselves in good position for the (NCAA) postseason. This is the postseason, so it’s a different mindset but at the same time it’s still baseball.”

 

Robinson said the resiliency and toughness of this Rebel team has been apparent throughout.

 

“Getting swept at home against South Carolina was tough. But it was like a new beginning after that. Like at Texas A&M, we lost the first two and then bounced back and really gained the momentum for the postseason – the SEC and the NCAA postseason.

 

“Taking care of the first game here is what’s on our minds now. We’ve got our ace on the mound, and we hope to bring the gloves and the bats and play our hardest tomorrow.”   


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