OXFORD — Let’s talk about Ole Miss baseball’s last three Saturdays.
April 9. Ole Miss trails Alabama 10-7 heading into the eighth inning. Jacob Gonzalez hits a two-run home run in the eighth and Tim Elko hits a solo home run in the ninth to send the game to extra innings. The Rebels still lose, 12-10 in 10.
April 16. Ole Miss trails South Carolina 8-4 heading into the top of the ninth. Four hits and four runs later, the Rebels have the score tied 8-8 going into the bottom of the ninth. The Rebels still lose, 9-8.
Saturday. Ole Miss trails Mississippi State 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth. Gonzalez uncorks a two-run home run, tying the score and sending the game to extra innings. The Rebels still lose, 7-6 in 11.
Four SEC weekends remain and the Rebels (22-17, 6-12 SEC) likely need to win seven or eight of those 12 games to have a shot at playing in the NCAA Tournament. There’s no guarantee at this point the Rebels will even be one of the 12 teams that qualify for the SEC Tournament.
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Three comebacks. Three losses. One team on the brink of postseason elimination.
“Obviously we haven’t had the results that we wanted and we haven’t been good at times,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said after Saturday’s loss. “But this wasn’t about effort, this wasn’t about energy. They played their hearts out this weekend. We just weren’t good enough.”
It’s a tough pill to swallow. But it’s rapidly becoming the truth. Ole Miss is losing baseball games because Ole Miss isn’t good enough. At least it isn’t right now. At times this team shows flashes of why it was ranked No. 1 early in the season. But 18 games into SEC play, there’s enough evidence to show that this team is scrappy and fighting for its life but just doesn’t have enough by way of personnel, consistency or coaching creativity to get ahead.
The Rebels have a .241 batting average, a .317 on-base percentage and a .466 slugging percentage in SEC play. Opponents are batting .286 against Rebels’ pitchers, which have a 6.46 ERA and a 1.621 WHIP. Ole Miss hitters have 47 more strikeouts than they do hits and Ole Miss pitchers have allowed 15 more hits than they have strikeouts.
The margin for error in SEC play is razor thin. Complete the comebacks the last three Saturdays and Ole Miss is 9-9 and still being discussed as a potential regional host. But that’s not what happened. Because of a combination of lack of pitching depth, overworked bullpen arms and an offense over-reliant on home runs, the Rebels have lost those three games. As well as the 4-3 loss against Tennessee where they came back from a four-run deficit in the eighth and still lost. And the 10-7 loss to Mississippi State Friday when the tying run came to the plate in the ninth.
Scrappy teams keep fighting. Talented teams come back. Great teams finish off wins. To contradict Meat Loaf’s classic 1978 single, in this case, two out of three is bad.
“It hurts, but there’s no moral victories in that,” senior outfielder Kevin Graham said. “You’ve got to go win a ballgame. I’m proud of the way we fought all weekend. We just got beat.”
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.