Important Thursday

HOOVER, Ala. – Ole Miss stranded a bunch of runners in its first-day meeting with Georgia at the SEC Tournament. Make that 13, to be exact.

For the Bulldogs, who left only five on base, it was a different story. Especially that one moment midway through.

One swing of center fielder Matt Cerione's bat in the top of the sixth inning provided enough runs for victory.

The fifth most productive Bulldog round-tripper on the season got it just over the center field wall with three of his teammates aboard. And that proved to be plenty.

Georgia's other win in four games against Ole Miss this season was also thanks to a grand slam. That Friday night win for the Bulldogs in Oxford was also a 6-3 final score. Joey Lewis, third best home run hitter on the team with 16 currently, launched a top of the seventh shot out of Swayze to propel his ballclub to victory.

The Rebels won the next two games against Georgia that weekend to take the series against the nation's No. 1 ranked team at the time. Now the Rebels need to match that, first by defeating Florida Thursday morning in a 10 o'clock contest and then by beating whichever team awaits the victor on Friday.

A national top eight seed is likely at stake Thursday for perhaps both teams. Ole Miss, the SEC co-champ along with likely national seed LSU, will probably need a couple more wins after losing today.

Florida, the second seed here which lost earlier today 8-5 to seventh-seeded Arkansas, was the SEC East champ this season. The Gators probably need to beat Ole Miss to keep national seed hope alive. And maybe even win another one.

It's all speculation. You can evaluate it now and even as the weekend moves on. But it's somewhat guesswork for anybody – except the NCAA baseball committee. They are the ones with the final say.

There are other tournaments going on around the country this week. The ACC is full of teams trying to get in or stay in the top eight – North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Miami, Virginia, and Florida State are all right there or near there.

Cal State-Fullerton is atop the RPI currently. Texas is third and the best the Big 12 has to offer at this point. Arizona State is a likely top eight from the Pac-10. TCU is close. Rice could be there again.

But the Rebels (40-16) can only worry about themselves – and the Florida Gators, of course.

Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said so postgame when asked if Thursday means elimination from not only this tourney but a national seed possibility.

"We're trying to win games to stay in this tournament," Bianco said. "That's more for you to talk about and write about."

But if his team beats Florida, then wins another elimination game Friday against a team to be determined, then they are likely right back in it. In other words, getting to Saturday is huge for being a national top eight seed possibility for Ole Miss.

Offensively against what had been a slumping Georgia team (36-20), the Rebels left way too many on base. Against the Gators (38-19), they have to get them on again and find a way to get them in.

Bianco said his team this season had normally found a way – to both get runs in when needed and to stay away from the big inning.

Against Georgia, that haunted them like few times before.

By early afternoon Thursday, they could have gotten things right again. Where they are playing two weeks from now may depend on it.


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