OLE MISS

Rebels Look To Boost National Seed Chances

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Amid regional host and national seed discussion, 10th-ranked and second-seeded Ole Miss opens Southeastern Conference Tournament play Wednesday against seventh-seeded Arkansas. The Rebels are squarely on the national seed bubble after finishing the regular season 40-16 overall and 19-11 in SEC play.

Ole Miss will start junior right-hander Chris Ellis Wednesday against Arkansas, followed by sophomore left-hander Christian Trent on Thursday against third-seeded LSU or sixth-seeded Vanderbilt. 

Ellis enters Wednesday with a 9-0 record and 2.12 earned run average with 52 strikeouts and 28 walks in 89.0 innings. He has also posted six consecutive quality starts, including a win over Arkansas on May 2.

"It definitely wouldn't hurt to win a couple of games," senior catcher Will Allen said. "Obviously, we're not going to go down there and not try to win. As long as we're playing baseball, we're going to do the best we can. If we play well and do what we can and make a run in the tournament that would definitely help. It's up in the air, and we'll see."

With a series win at Texas A&M, Ole Miss moved up two spots to No. 13 in this week's official RPI rankings. Fellow SEC national seed contenders Vanderbilt, which Ole Miss might face in an SEC Tournament matchup Thursday, and South Carolina are ranked Nos. 6 and 8, respectively.

"You can't control what they do or how they're playing, but as long as keep playing well, we'll make a run at a national seed," senior third baseman Austin Anderson said. "All we can do is play well and win. If you start looking at that, you get distracted from what we're trying to do. Although it would be great to be a national seed and host a Super Regional, as long we keep winning, it doesn't matter where we play, we'll make it to Omaha."

For Allen and Anderson, they have achieved two team goals for the first time in their four-year careers: win 40 games and claim an SEC Western Division Championship. Other goals, however, remain ahead of them, as they want to finish strong and leave their legacy, individually and as a team.

"It's something we have been focused on the whole year," said Allen of the national seed talk. "One of our goals is to host a Regional and host a Super Regional. You have to take it game-by-game and really focus on the task at hand. Right now, we have the SEC Tournament. It would be really cool win an SEC Championship. None of us here now have done that, so we would love to do that."


Rebels Rolling Entering Hoover

Ole Miss left Tuscaloosa with a 4-5 record in SEC play, having just been swept at Alabama and having lost two of three at South Carolina two weekends previously.

From there, the Rebels have gone 15-6 in SEC play, including four straight series wins to end the regular season. The 21-game stretch also included weekend sweeps of Auburn and Kentucky and just one series loss, at home against LSU.

"Last year, we had a pretty good year, but we seemed to be dying out at the end and lost two of three at LSU," Anderson said. "At Hoover, we won our first game and then lost the next two. It seems like the team is playing well and we have a lot of confidence going into the postseason."

The Rebels have also shown an ability to bounce back this season. Ole Miss is 10-5 after losses, including a 7-1 mark since the 4-5 start in SEC play. They look to continue the trend coming off a 9-6 loss at Texas A&M in the regular season finale.

"Throughout the year, we have lost some close games," Allen said. "It seems like the next game we bounce back. I don't know the record off the top of my head, but it seems like after the games we have lost and the next game we play, we get right back on track. That's huge. To not really go through too many peaks and valleys but just consistently play, we have been able to do that this year."


Allen Wins Regular-Season Batting Title

Will Allen won the SEC regular-season batting title, with a .359 average, edging Kentucky's A.J. Reed by percentage points. He surged to the league lead, going 6-for-12 for the weekend series at Texas A&M. He also ended the regular season ranked second in RBI (55), second in hits (80) and seventh in home runs.

Allen has started all 56 games, including 50 at catcher, after serving primarily as the DH as a junior. He credits two years of maturity and strength and conditioning to coach Ben Fleming, for his ability to maintain his weight and remain consistent throughout the season.

"We lift two times a week and try to maintain my weight," Allen said. "A couple of years ago, I lost quite a bit of weight. I am making sure I stay between 225-230 pounds. I do a lot of stretching on my own before practice. I'm more mature with taking care of myself and making it a priority."

Robinson, Woodman Lift Rebels Late

Freshmen Errol Robinson and J.B. Woodman have been on a tear since the start of the Kentucky series. Robinson has raised his average from .285 to .310, hitting at a .375 clip, while Woodman has raised his average from .280 to .336, hitting at a .435 clip.

Woodman earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for his role in helping Ole Miss clinch the SEC West. He drove in the game-tying run in Thursday night's win at Texas A&M and then drove in the game-tying run and scored the game-winning run in Friday's win at Texas A&M.

"The freshmen have had a big impact," Anderson said. "Errol, JB and Colby (Bortles), and Wyatt Short out of the bullpen, have had great years. Even as an older guy, when you see a freshman player with that confidence, it makes it a lot easier for us to feed off of that. Our whole team feeds off one another."


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