More Of The Same

HOOVER, Ala. – Last year Ole Miss had a Regional host bid wrapped up when they arrived in the Hoover vacuum. When they went 0-2, it didn't matter.

This year it was hard to put a finger on what they were here for. They couldn't play their way into a host role. The Auburn series sweep and the RPI they brought with them had done them in.

So they came here looking for wins, obviously, but also looking for some confidence to take into next week.

They, so far, have found one win. The confidence? Not so much.

They play again tomorrow against a team with which they're quite familiar. The SEC West champions from just down the road took three games from the Rebels in Oxford last weekend, the first team to do so since 2003. Auburn looms dead ahead, and while the Tigers' offense seems to have calmed down quite a bit since leaving Oxford, the Tigers need only check the final score of today's game to feel good about things again.

Alabama beat Ole Miss 6-3, and the Rebels didn't threaten until late. Ole Miss got one run in each of the last three innings, but the anemic offense couldn't muster much off a guy they'd seen recently.

Nathan "Peanut" Kilcrease, the littlest pitcher in the park, went out and nearly got his second complete game against Ole Miss. Back on May 16 in Tuscaloosa, he toyed with the Rebel hitters on his way to a 6-3 win when he pitched to every batter Ole Miss sent to the plate. Thursday at the SEC Tournament, he nearly did it again, going eight and a third.

"When he gets up around 100 pitches," said Alabama first-year head coach Mitch Gaspard, "he tends to get the ball up a little bit."

So when that point came, Peanut gave way to reliever Jake Smith, the Bama third baseman, who went into the Tide dugout, slipped on one of Kilcrease's Superman capes, which obviously fit a little snuggly. And he came out the last two-thirds of an inning and took care of the Rebels.

Ole Miss and Alabama had played two weeks ago with Ole Miss winning the opener. The Tide hasn't lost a game since then, winning seven straight.

"This is the feeling you want this time of year," Gaspard said. "Confidence is dripping off this team right now."

The Rebels? Again, not so much. It was obvious just watching this game that there is little confidence in the Ole Miss dugout. But what else is new? We haven't seen that in abundance in weeks.

Kevin Mort

There was a bit of it trying to peek through Wednesday with a 3-0 win against South Carolina in the opener. And it was a quality win.

But here are some facts about that one. The starter USC head coach Ray Tanner rolled out there "wasn't even one of our 11-12 pitchers at times this season because of control," Tanner said. The Gamecocks used six pitchers against Ole Miss, and the Rebels managed nine hits.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco felt the positives in that one were that the Rebels at least got some runners to second or even third base and into position to score.

"We hadn't even done that at times lately," he said Wednesday.

But South Carolina had trouble scoring again against Auburn on Thursday morning and was the first team to exit. The Tigers beat them 3-1.

Take a look at that closely. That means the team the Rebels beat in game one here scored a total of one run in two games. USC is good and will host a Regional. The Gamecocks have 43 wins and will host next week.

And then there is this. Auburn lost to Alabama, obviously playing well, 7-1 Thursday then got only three runs against USC. That may mean the Tigers' offense is a little off since scoring 34 runs in Oxford. So maybe....

Well, anyway, baseball can be a funny game. Ole Miss had that confidence dripping off it when it swept LSU and MSU not all that long ago.

Now it's a team that says it wants another shot at Auburn, maybe even a little revenge for being on the wrong side of a sweep at home for the first time in seven years.

The most likely scenario, all things considered and being as generous as possible given the circumstances, is the Rebels will probably be on a bus bound for Lafayette County by sundown Friday, waiting to see where the NCAA sends them next weekend.

Unless the SEC's worst hitting lineup average-wise can somehow come alive and find itself again like it did back in April. And David Goforth and others can somehow keep Auburn hitters at bay like they couldn't last weekend.

Not likely, unfortunately.

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