Rebels need to flush the past and move on

HOOVER, Ala. - The season in a nutshell, at least to this point, might just be this. Rarely-used Rebel Cullan Kight comes in to pinch hit in the top of the 10th, and his blast to the right field wall just isn't quite high enough. Or far enough. But, in a season of almosts, it almost was.

A near two-run home run turns out to actually be just a double, and Kight gets to second while Peyton Farr, who had reached on a fielder's choice, stops at third.

There was only one out at the time, and the Rebels had scored three runs in the inning to lead 6-3. Two strikeouts later, both runners were stranded in scoring position.

Think about it. Nutshell of the season. Not getting the timely hit to get runners in. Not scoring enough runs to allow a reliever to hang on for victory. And this season that might just have been one more run. Or it might have been several more runs.

So Vanderbilt strolls up to the plate, best team in all the land, and takes care of business, right after it had all but given the game away. Four runs on four hits and not an out for a 7-6 victory.

Awesome team. Talented. Confident. They've won 50 games, and the NCAA Tournament hasn't even begun. Heck, the host sites and pairings aren't even done yet.

I've seen the Commodores up close and personal five games now, all against Ole Miss. The Rebels have one win. They could have had four. The lone victory was solid, a 6-1 win in game two of the series in Nashville during the opening SEC weekend. Besides the white-washing in game one here on Saturday, the Rebels could have won the others.

One thing's clear after these five games. Vandy's just better. Maybe not a lot but enough. In all honesty, they're probably better than everybody; thus their ranking basically all season.

The difference in Ole Miss and Vanderbilt this season was the 30 comeback wins for the Commodores, and the 14 one-run losses for the Rebels. That was a big difference.

But it wasn't just these type losses against Vandy that have haunted this Ole Miss team. You know the list. You've lived it. There've been many.

Mike Bianco said in the postgame that the baseball gods haven't been too kind to Ole Miss this season. He's right. But they sure opened the door for the Rebs there in the top of the 10th in this one, didn't they? Ole Miss let this one get away twice, actually - in the bottom of the ninth leading 3-2 and in the bottom of that dramatic 10th.

The baseball gods may have intervened at times, but this Ole Miss team continues to find ways to lose some games that it shouldn't. There are always games that go for or against. Quite a few more of the dramatic ones this season have gone against the Rebs than for.

It would have been nice to have played on championship Sunday here for the third straight year, nice for those fans who came to the ballpark for just this one day to have been able to root for the Rebs again Sunday afternoon.

And that would have happened, too, had the Rebels not found another almost improbable way to lose yet again.

And so they're left to deal with another dramatic loss. This Ole Miss team has been resilient. They've bounced back a lot. They did so Saturday after Vandy rolled 13-1 in the opener that was cut short by rule.

They'll likely find out Sunday they will host an NCAA Regional for the fourth straight season. And once again Ole Miss fans will flock to Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field to support them.

Those Reb fans will expect their team to win that Regional. But in the back of their collective minds, they'll likely have some doubts, even if their team is ahead late in games.

A season like this will do that. The best hope is that it hasn't affected the players too much. They have to believe they can still win the close ones late or they're done.

So that's one of the questions of the week - do the Rebels still believe in themselves, even after all these gut-wrenching, heart-breaking losses? It doesn't take a lot of doubt at this level to do a team in; just a little. The competition's too tough.

To be truthful, this last loss to Vandy wasn't as costly as the previous two close losses in Nashville. This one cost Ole Miss some hardware. The two in Nashville, along with a win or two along the way somewhere they didn't get, likely cost them a top eight national seed.

After 60 games, these Rebs are still playing, and likely at home. They'll flush this and move on. They have all year.

At some point if they're good enough, things might turn in their favor. The baseball gods might smile and give them a series of breaks.

For the most part, that hasn't been the case with this team. As talented as they are and as good as this program is, that's been a disappointing thing for all concerned.

That's exactly what Bianco called this latest loss - disappointing.

As for the season as a whole and the upcoming NCAA Tournament, there's still time, so we shall see.

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