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Rebels trying to end a midseason slump

Baseball seasons are long and unpredictable enough that, at some point, almost every team and player goes into a slump.

The Ole Miss Rebels seem ready to end theirs.

The Rebels lost 8-1 to Mississippi State in the annual Governor’s Cup game Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Although the game did not count in the Southeastern Conference standings, the Rebels haven’t been too hot in those lately, either.

Ole Miss (27-15, 10-8 SEC) has lost its last two SEC series and five of seven games overall. There’s still time to pull out of the slide — only two games separate the top six teams in the SEC Western Division — but they can’t afford to lose too much more ground as they head into a pivotal series with Texas A&M (29-12, 11-6).

The Rebels and Aggies begin the three-game set Thursday night in Oxford.

“It’s disappointing. We just haven’t played well these last couple weeks, collectively,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said after Tuesday’s loss. “When the pressure got hot, we didn’t handle it. That’s not what you’re supposed to do with a veteran club. It’s disappointing.”

There are still four SEC series and 12 games left in the regular season, and Ole Miss does not appear to be in any danger of missing the conference tournament, although its NCAA Tournament hopes might get sketchy if the slump continues down the stretch.

Ole Miss is ranked 28th in the NCAA’s RPI rankings, but is 11th out of 14 SEC teams. That’s plenty good enough to make the NCAA Tournament if the season ended today, but with series left against Texas A&M (No. 13 in RPI), LSU (No. 20), Mississippi State (No. 12) and Tennessee (No. 7) there are plenty of chances for that ranking to move one way or the other depending on results.

For their part, the Rebels seem more frustrated than panicked. They are, after all, a team that won 25 of its first 35 games.

“We just have to be better. There’s so much more potential on this team and we all know it,” said Ole Miss shortstop Grae Kessinger, who had two hits against Mississippi State to extend his streak of reaching base to 30 consecutive games. “We just have to get it in gear, dig deep inside us and find out what’s going to work for us. I feel confident, I think we all feel confident it’s going to come. We just have to do it.”

Oxford Eagle sports writer Nathanael Gabler contributed to this report

TEXAS A&M AT OLE MISS
• Thursday: 6 p.m. (TV: SEC Network)
• Friday: 6:30 p.m.
• Saturday: 2 p.m.
• All games on radio on 107.7 and 1490 AM, and streamed online on SEC Network-Plus

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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