Ole Miss has made their way through the SEC tournament unscathed. The Rebels are 3-0 with wins over Georgia, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. Now the Rebels face their toughest test, the Aggies of Texas A&M, who eliminated the Commodores on Friday. The Rebels have already faced the Aggies this season, losing the series 2-1, winning the Saturday game.
The Rebel offense has been on fire so far this tournament, scoring 27 runs in 3 games. Pitching has also come alive for Ole Miss, as well, only allowing 14 runs, nine. of which came against Vanderbilt. Yesterday provided the Rebels a day off for the first time in the tournament after advancing to the semi-finals back on Thursday.
The Rebels have already announced Chad Smith will be their starter for the game against Texas A&M. He started the lone game the Rebels took from A&M this season, in which he went four innings, allowing three hits and a run. The Rebels bullpen could be limited to a few relievers, as the Rebels rest Andy Pagnozzi and Brady Feigl.
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Smith started the season out as the second-day starter, but was moved to the bullpen after a disappointing start to conference play. Ole Miss will need at least four solid innings of work from Smith on Saturday if the Rebs want to advance to championship Sunday. Smith has the stuff and has had ample rest, so he should be ready for this challenge.
If Smith can locate his fastball low and get some movement on his off-speed pitch, then this game should be a close one.
The Aggies have thrown Andrew Vinson, Brigham Hill, and Kyle Simonds in their first three games. The Aggies has announced that Jace Vines will start Saturday against the Rebels.
Vines started 10 games this season for the Aggies, winning six and losing just one. His season ERA is 4.73. Vines did have the highest average allowed between all the starters for the Aggies, allowing opposing hitters to bat .279 against him.
Vines struggled in SEC play, pitching a 6.75 ERA with a 3-1 record in 7 starts. He allowed two tater bombs this season as well. His average in conference play was .348.
Ole Miss should be able to get out in front of Vines early with some production from the early part of the lineup. Vines did not face the Rebels in their series earlier this season.
The Rebels have proven that they can hit star pitching this season, and especially during this tournament. The first three pitchers the Rebels faced, Robert Tyler, Clarke Schmidt, and Jordan Sheffield are all projected to go in the first round of the MLB draft when they are eligible.
Both of these teams have been on fire offensively during this tournament and both scorched Vanderbilt for double-digit runs to get to the semi-finals. Texas A&M actually run-ruled the Commodores. Ole Miss came close, but missed their chance when they tried to stick it out with James McArthur on the mound.
The Aggies leading offensive star is Boomer White. He hit an amazing .407 in regular season play, adding four home runs to that count as well. White has been quiet in the SEC tournament though, with only two hits in 12 at-bats.
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Hunter Melton is the power hitter Ole Miss needs to quiet down, he led the team with 11 home runs this season, but has been quieted in the tournament. The Aggies only have one home run this tournament, Nick Banks hit a solo shot to center field in Friday’s game against Vanderbilt.
The nine-hole hitter, Austin Homan, has been vital for the Aggies success, batting in six runs in the tournament. Homan is a good hitter who lacks power, but can easily put a ball in play. He hit .344 in the regular season. The Rebels will need silence him, especially with runners in scoring position.
Errors have been a big part of the SEC tournament. Teams that have been excellent all season, have had errors all throughout the tournament.
Texas A&M fielding percentage was .978 this season, with 47 errors. Slightly better than the Rebels, whose fielding percentage was .972, with 62 errors. 33 of those errors coming from 1B Will Golsan, 2B Tate Blackman, and 3B Colby Bortles, who all 11 each.
SS Austin Homan led the Aggies with errors, with 13.
What’s at stake
For Ole Miss, this win could solidify a national seed for the NCAA tournament. Right now, D1Baseball.com has the Rebels in as the 7 seed nationally.
For Texas A&M, this is just for the SEC tournament title, and for revenge. The Rebels kept them from winning the SEC regular season crown. The Aggies are a virtual lock for a national seed, so they are playing for a trophy right now.
How to witness
The first two games are on the SEC Network, with the final being broadcast on ESPN2. This is now single elimination, if the Rebels lose, it is over for the SEC tournament.
Game 15: #3 Texas A&M -vs- #7 Ole Miss / 12:00 PM CT
Game 16: #4 Florida -vs- #5 LSU / 30 minutes after Game 15
Final: Winner of Game 15 -vs- Winner of Game 16 / 2:00 PM CT / ESPN2