More Like Themselves

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Certainly the Ole Miss Rebels were more like themselves Thursday night. More like themselves than they were against Mississippi State, that is.

This Ole Miss baseball team, arguably surprising but certainly impressive, now finds itself 38-15 overall and 18-10 in Southeastern Conference play following a 7-5 victory over the Razorbacks.

The Rebels picked themselves up after losing the first two games to MSU and got an 8-1 win on Sunday. Then they came up here to the Ozarks and won the first game of this important series. And in a way it was a bit of a strange game. But baseball can be like that.

The homestanding Hogs, who lost three games at Alabama last weekend, committed four costly errors in the first three innings. Ole Miss took advantage and led 7-1 before Arkansas began to creep back into it.

But they never caught up. Drew Pomeranz, Aaron Barrett, David Goforth and Jake Morgan saw to that. So did some stellar defensive moments we've come to expect from the Rebel infielders. Kevin Mort and Tim Ferguson were impressive on several key plays. The Rebs committed no errors as a team.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco admitted this was more like the team he had gotten to know this season. So did players we talked to postgame, like Brett Basham and Logan Power.

The Rebels still need some help, but they've got a chance to win the SEC. Mississippi State, which lost to LSU Thursday night, needs to beat the Tigers (19-9 in the SEC) at least once for the Rebs to have a shot at tying. Beat them twice and Ole Miss win twice here and the Rebels can surpass LSU for the crown.

Tall task for sure, especially since LSU and MSU are at opposite ends of the win-loss spectrum this season.

Florida, with its win over Kentucky at home Thursday night, is tied for second in the conference with Ole Miss at 18-10. The Rebels have the tiebreaker, having won two of three games in Gainesville earlier, but Florida would get the higher seed in Hoover by being SEC East Champs.

The top two seeds at the SEC tourney are the division champions.

Alabama (17-10 with a rainout on its ledger) is in fourth place. The Crimson Tide lost to Auburn Thursday night as the final Bama pitcher walked in the winning run.

So the Rebels are currently third in the seedings for Hoover – with two regular season games left to play.

If they finish there, they'll play in the second game of the day on Wednesday against the sixth-seeded team. And that could be Arkansas, Georgia, or South Carolina, it appears.

Bianco's 2005 team swept Arkansas the last weekend of the regular season here at Baum Stadium/George Cole Field. That team tied LSU for the SEC West crown and finished 18-12 after the series sweep of the Razorbacks.

This year's team can set a new Ole Miss SEC single-season record with one more win here. They are close to doing that. They are close to claiming at least a share of the SEC West and overall crowns. They are close - and maybe have already done so - to solidifying another NCAA Regional hosting berth.

They are still playing for a lot as the series continues Friday at 6:35 p.m. And they are doing so in a ballpark that has meant success recently for Rebel baseball.

To go along with that sweep in '05, the Rebels won two of three here in 2007. Add Thursday night's victory and that's wins in six of their last seven games here.

And while that might not mean much except for the fact that the Rebels have done well lately here, maybe the trend will continue for the next two days.

This is developing into a season to remember. And it's been a long time now since losing two of three games in the South Alabama tourney had some wondering if this team was going to be very good.

I distinctly remember Bianco saying on Rebel Yell Hotline the Monday night after the Mobile, Ala., trip that this Rebel team would be far better than it had shown when it slipped by Liberty and lost to Mercer and the host Jaguars.

He said then we could all be assured of that. And he was obviously right on the mark.

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