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Where Ole Miss stands following a series win vs. Texas A&M

OXFORD — While unable to ultimately pull off sweeps in each of its last two series, Ole Miss has put itself in position to make these last two weeks before the NCAA Baseball Tournament Selection Show rather interesting.

The Rebels (27-24, 11-16) won its first two games at Auburn last weekend before dropping the finale on a walk-off passed ball. After falling in a 15-inning midweek marathon to Murray State Wednesday, Ole Miss turned around and took the first two games against a top-five Texas A&M team before dropping Game 3 on Sunday.

While somewhat of a postseason afterthought prior to the Auburn series after series losses to Georgia and Alabama, the last two weekends have the Rebels back in the conversation. There’s currently a logjam in the middle of the SEC standings, as Ole Miss and Florida are both 11-16, Alabama and Vanderbilt are both 12-15, South Carolina is 13-14 and LSU is 10-17. The Rebels are currently projected as the No. 10 seed in the SEC Tournament.

Ole Miss currently has an RPI ranking of 24, a resume strengthened by the nation’s second-hardest schedule and 12 Quad 1 wins, per D1Baseball. The Rebels have series wins against three ranked teams: Texas A&M, South Carolina and Mississippi State.

Historically speaking, three of 17 teams that finished the season with 12 SEC wins have made the NCAA Tournament, according to the SEC Network. Ten of 26 have made it with 13 wins, and 16 of 23 have made it with 14, including the Rebels in 2022. No team has made the tournament with 11 SEC wins.

Ole Miss plays at Southern Miss Tuesday before starting a three-game series at LSU on Thursday to wrap up the regular season. Ole Miss swept the Tigers in Baton Rouge in 2022 before the Tigers returned the favor in Oxford last year.

“You’re now in the NCAA Tournament, because if you win, you control your own destiny,” junior pitcher Mason Nichols said. “And, our goal is to win the national championship, and it will always be to win the national championship. So, to do that, we have to win some games at LSU and … you can’t overlook Southern Miss all. It’s all important, every single game.

“ … And that’s the beautiful part of this season, is that we’ve put ourselves in a spot where we can do that.”

Pitching was the story of the weekend vs. the Aggies, who entered the series with a top-10 scoring offense averaging 9.5 runs per game. Ole Miss held Texas A&M to 11 runs over three games. The Rebels started junior Riley Maddox on Friday, sophomore Liam Doyle Saturday and Nichols Sunday; they gave up a combined four earned runs. The Aggies scored multiple runs in just one inning the entire weekend, a three-run sixth inning on Sunday.

After a come-from-behind win in the opener and a dominant offensive performance in Game 2, the Rebels had just four baserunners Sunday. Alabama starter Shane Sdao pitched seven innings, gave up three hits and struck out six batters with one walk.

“Besides that one inning, I thought we pitched it really, really well against a really good offense,” head coach Mike Bianco said. “Unfortunately we had a tough inning today where their guy was just so, so good. And, at the end of the day, I don’t know if that would have made a difference, but that was kind of the message to the team is, we have to stay out of that inning and try to keep it in a one or two or even three-run game.”

Ole Miss’ game at Southern Miss Tuesday is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.