Back At It

Cloudy, cool, almost March-like weather, with a temperature in the mid-50s, greeted Ole Miss baseball at its first practice on Thursday since a Tuesday loss to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

The Rebels are 30-26 overall with, counting the loss to the Crimson Tide in Hoover, Ala., a 15-15 conference ledger (16-15 if you include the win over Mississippi State in Pearl). The Rebels’ RPI is No. 27 today and their strength of schedule is still at No. 1.

Are they in the NCAA Tournament field for sure? They finished No. 6 in the SEC’s regular season of 14 teams. Signs are that they should not only be in but likely a No. 2 seed when teams are announced during a lunchtime broadcast on Monday.

Ole Miss is going about its business as if it is already in for the 13th time in head coach Mike Bianco’s 15 seasons. But that’s what they are supposed to do. They’ll use the next few days to work on some things they might otherwise not have had the time to do when games come at them four or five times per week from mid-February through mid-May.

“We didn’t really plan to be here (at home) this week or certainly not this early,” Bianco said. “One of the things we’d like to do before the (NCAA) Regional is to go over all the game stuff you tend not to do as much during the season. We’ll run through a handful of things today and throughout the weekend. We’ll intrasquad some and let the pitchers throw that haven’t thrown much over the last few weeks.”

But Christian Trent, Brady Bramlett, and Scott Weathersby won’t be among those pitching. The three current weekend starters will all take a break.

“They won’t throw any off the mound until next week,” Bianco said. “The best thing for them is to rest and try to get them back on a regular schedule next week.”

Bianco Briefly

* On Connor Cloyd’s injury and if he will be back for the NCAA Tournament, which would start Friday, May 29: “I feel good about it, but I’d hate to say for sure. We’re just taking it each day. With some more days, hopefully he will be back (by the NCAA Tournament).”

* On Kyle Watson in that left field spot, making a great catch and with two hits against Alabama, with a fast start to the season that had slowed down considerably: “That happens sometimes. He got off to a great start (this season), and then he struggled a little bit. He’s bounced back, and we needed that. Not just with Connor’s (injury) situation, but we needed another guy who is swinging it well. (Watson is) a great defender and one of our best baserunners. It’s coming at the right time.”

* On J.B. Woodman this season: “Going in there were high expectations. He was a freshman All-American (last year). Sometimes your second year for whatever reason seems to be a little tougher. He’s had some great weekends and some great moments. But I’m sure he would admit not as consistent as he would like. It was nice he got some hits Tuesday and hopefully that will get him going at the right time.”

* On if he and the team discuss seeding or where they might go next week: “No, because you really have no idea. Seeding, I guess a lot depends on what happens in the other (conference) tournaments and where the committee thinks we are. As far as where we go, the committee tries to keep you within a drive. But we’ve flown to Miami, to Raleigh, to College Station. We’ve probably flown more than we’ve driven. I don’t know if the closer Regionals are any more of a possibility than those out West or somewhere far away.”

* On Tate Blackman and how he has made it through a difficult season of play as a freshman: “I think he’s handled it awesome. I’m really proud of him. There were super high expectations, and unfortunately it hasn’t been the year that any of us expected, including himself. But he’s continued to work hard offensively and defensively. Proud of him.”

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