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Rebels can only wait after losing early lead in loss to Auburn

HOOVER | Now Ole Miss must wait.

Wait for the conference tournaments to end. Wait for other bubble teams to pop or prosper and wait for a Memorial Day broadcast selection show that will showcase the NCAA selection committee’s decision on the Rebels’ season.

Auburn overcame two early Ole Miss runs and advanced to the double elimination portion of the SEC Tournament bracket with a 5-4 win that sent the Rebels home before six teams begin their stay in Hoover.

Ole Miss’ RPI fell from 32 to 35 with the loss — but only .0003 from 38th — and the resume features losses in four of the last five games of the season and a 14-17 conference record when the tournament defeat is included.

The Rebels (32-25) went to the state of Alabama five days ago with a chance to build on a series win over Texas A&M and solidify an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. But the series loss to Auburn (35-22) and a third topple by the Tigers on Tuesday make things volatile.

“You never know, and it’s always a tough answer from me as certainly I’m partial, but when you look at the resume… and the teams we’ve played and losses,” Mike Bianco said. “We went 5-5 in our league weekends and beat Vandy, Texas A&M and then Arkansas who are all supposedly in, and our losses are up for national seeds. We lost four of the five weekend losses on the road to tournament teams and host teams.

“It was the year we expected or wanted, but certainly I think it’s worthy of playing in the postseason. We’re one of the best teams around when you talk about the 64.”

The conference record is on the fringe of inclusion, as five of the last seven 14-16 regular season SEC teams have been included in the field, but all those carried top-30 RPIs.

Ole Miss is tied for the national lead with 34 games against the top 50 but is 13-21 in those contests. The Rebels are 3-0 against teams 51-100.

A win over Auburn and a neutral site date with RPI top-three Florida would have cured most of the issue, but the Tigers got back-to-back extra base hits in the fourth inning to post three runs and end Brady Feigl’s first start since late March. Auburn added on a couple times, and weekend starters Keegan Thompson and Casey Mize kept the Rebels quiet after the early spurt.

Thompson, who threw six no-hit innings against Ole Miss on Thursday, gave up two two runs on four this in three innings, throwing only 41 pitches. Mize, who didn’t pitch against the Rebels because of arm soreness, finished the final six frames and gave up two runs. He threw first pitch strikes to 18 of 22 batters and 57 of his 77 pitches were strikes.

Nick Fortes had an RBI double in the first to score Will Golsan, and Kyle Watson hit a two-out, two-strike single to score Cooper Johnson in the second inning. Auburn took the took in the fourth on Jonah Todd’s two-out triple to score two runs.

The Rebels tied it on a throwing error in the sixth, but a Blake Logan home run and a wild pitch with a runner on third gave Auburn a two-run lead going to the ninth. Ryan Olenek hit a home run for Ole Miss, but the tying run never got on base in the final inning.

Houston Roth allowed two of Feigl’s runners to score in the fourth, and Will Stokes gave up the Logan home run. Dallas Woolfolk yielded two hits and the run on the wild pitch in 1.2 innings.

Golsan had two of Ole Miss’ seven hits.

“For sure (done enough for a bid),” Golsan said. “We have quality wins and played hard and well. we’ve done enough for it.”

The Rebels are 2-3 on the first day of the SEC Tournament since the field expanded to 12 teams.