Looking Ahead

Mike Bianco said he didn't know what to say after Ole Miss lost 18-4 to Auburn. Mainly that's because he hasn't dealt with days like that often.

We continue to see lopsided scores in SEC play this season and also high-scoring close games. I've never seen as many of them as there were this season.

Ole Miss has pretty much avoided that. Until Friday night when Auburn ripped the Rebels early and often for runs and hits. Ole Miss pitchers helped with 13 walks.

This isn't the type baseball Ole Miss is used to playing in this era. It isn't for Auburn either. The Tigers, who went to Omaha twice in the 1990s under Hal Baird, have wandered in baseball wilderness since 2003. Now they've got it back.

Baird was a longtime successful coach there and then he gave way to his assistant, Steve Renfroe. When that didn't work after a short time, they brought in another head coach, Tom Slater, who never made the field at Hoover.

But in talking to Auburn reporters, Slater's group was more about recruiting than coaching. John Pawlowski, successful coach prior to coming to Auburn out of the Coach Jack Leggett tree at Clemson and leading the College of Charleston to its most successful seasons, was the benefactor of a talented lineup already in place.

This is a veteran Tiger team we're witnessing that up and down the lineup hits as well as any in the SEC in years. They celebrated their first SEC West title since 1995 on Swayze Friday night. They head back to Hoover for the first time in seven years with hosting a Regional on their minds.

The Rebels' third-year sophomore right-handed starter, David Goforth, has improved this season. His numbers, 1-4 and 7.76, aren't much to write home about. But he's continued to fight through as the Sunday starter and had his longest outing against an improving Alabama team last weekend. However, the Neshoba Central High product won't have faced a lineup like he will today.

The Rebels have claimed the sixth spot for Hoover. They'll face three-seed South Carolina Wednesday in the early afternoon game.

Drew Pomeranz will again be on the mound for the Rebels, and with his first strikeout will set the new standard for strikeouts at Ole Miss. He and Lance Lynn are tied with 332 Ks each.

The key to the future, and that's always what sports fans look to, is getting more pitchers like Lance Lynn and Drew Pomeranz. And getting more hitters like the Rebels have been accustomed to this decade.

This Rebel team still has a lot to fight for and a chance to make some things happen. And they'll play that way, starting again today. Get Drew Pomeranz and Aaron Barrett to a Regional or a Super Regional, and there's a chance. Of course the number of walks lately has been disturbing. Give up 13 of them in one game to an offense like Auburn and it makes scoring 18 runs pretty easy.

On Tuesday they'll head to Hoover and give it a shot there. Then it's on to a ninth NCAA Regional in the last ten seasons. All the while they'll be recruiting, the lifeblood of any program and the key to what lies down the road for the Rebel program. As always, they have a lot to sell.

Bianco said at the opening press conference this season back in February he didn't think the new NCAA rules, which limit rosters to 35, had much of an effect on Ole Miss the first year it was implemented. This year, the second year, I think we may have seen that.

Already limited by rule, we saw Jake Morgan go down to Tommy John surgery in the fall and Jon Andy Scott, a pitcher they were counting on to help, fall victim to the same thing. And later pitcher Blair Wright gone to injury. We saw freshman infielder Evan Frazar and freshman outfielder Zach Lowery dismissed from the team in December. And there was the departure at semester break of assistant coach Rob Reinstetle.

The program regrouped and hit it hard in January to continue to prepare for this season. Carl Lafferty took over the recruiting duties, and his tireless work in that department has already paid dividends.

This season isn't done, as some would have you believe. Not when there is a game today and a conference tournament next week and a Regional after that.

There hasn't been a month of May with three straight series losses like the Rebels are going through right now since the early part of this era back in the early part of the decade.

They'll be out there on the field trying today to keep from getting swept for the first time this season. And then they'll have a couple of days to take a deep breath and regroup before heading to Hoover.

This was a tough opponent to end up the regular season with and take any confidence from. A win today would certainly help in that department. A loss today probably won't shake them any more than the first couple of days have.

"They've got a real good offense, and it seemed like they didn't miss a single pitch," said sophomore Matt Snyder, who has had his share of injuries which have affected the team this season. "Even when they got out....I don't know how to even explain it. It was unbelievable how they hit the ball.

"We can't control what they do, all we can do is control what we do. They had a really good day. We haven't done that in a while, probably since Mississippi State. We've just got to get back to where we were against State and LSU.

"Somewhere along the way we lost something, but we'll find it."

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