Press Box Notebook

Baseball plays 4 games in Louisiana, men's tennis plays for an SEC overall crown at MSU, and women's golf hosts the SEC tourney.

Sometimes you do get what you ask for.

Heading into Wednesday night's baseball game at Southeastern Louisiana, the Rebels find themselves searching for wins. They were 21-5 after beating Vandy in game one in Nashville on April 1. Since then they've gone 1-5.

In conference play the Rebels have lost four of their last five games after winning five of their first seven.

When I said early in the year I had divided this season into two parts – before tax day and after – I was half-joking, half-serious. I was hoping if the Rebels had a stretch of losses it would come early and not late. So far I'm on course.

But I can't say that I haven't had my moments of concern during the last couple of weeks. Getting to the midway point and suffering some losses didn't appear before the season to be that big of a deal. Actually going through it can be frustrating to watch.

The LSU series is where I drew the season-dividing line. After the game in Hammond Wednesday night, that series is up next. It's the fifth SEC series of 10, so that's as good a place as any to divide the season.

The SELA game is important for a number of reasons. One, to get a win and two, to let the players get some confidence back. Coaches, too. Fans, too.

As is the case with non-league games during the midweek, it is also important to prepare players for down the road and to continue to search for who is on now and who might be ready to help in the future.

That's particularly the case with pitchers. It's why Mike Bianco said Monday that he will use several of them in the contest against the Lions, who are 15-19 on the season.

He and the staff also decided that a new Sunday face might help things. Anthony Cupps had faltered the past two Sundays, and the Rebels had lost both games.

Eric Fowler, who has had good success in the midweek games this season and is a seasoned veteran, will face LSU on Sunday.

Mark Holliman will remain the Friday night guy, and Matt Maloney will go on Saturday.

Against SELA, Chris Moffett (RHP, junior, 1.23 ERA, 5 appearances, 7.1 innings pitched, 7 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts) will start. My guess is he will go no more than three innings, maybe only two, and that we'll see some combination the rest of the evening from Stoney Stone, Tommy Baumgardner, Will Kline, Jon-Jon Hancock, Brooks Villar, Michael Wakefield. Maybe even others as well.

The fact that the SEC race is so tight allows a team going through some rough times – like Ole Miss is now – to keep pace. The current SEC leaders Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina are 8-4. At 6-6, Ole Miss is still right there.

One surprise so far has been LSU. The Tigers are 23-11 and 5-7 and were swept in Baton Rouge over the weekend by South Carolina. That was after losing their previous two series at Alabama two of three and at home to Auburn two of three.

Ole Miss should have some confidence that it can win the series based on the way LSU has played lately. One team is going to win this series and the other will find itself in a bigger hole than it's already in.

But it will still only be the halfway mark of league play, so there are a lot of games left for anything to happen.

There should be a full house for the three games this weekend. But earlier in the season Alex Box Stadium had lots of empty seats for games. This, according to the following statement from former baseball coach and current AD Skip Bertman.

"Did you know that, going into the SEC season, less than 50 percent of the seats in the grandstand at Alex Box Stadium had been used? They have all been purchased, but only half were actually occupied during the first 14 regular season games."

The enthusiasm for baseball is down a bit at LSU it seems. I'm sure they will be trying to right the Tiger ship this weekend.

After two SEC series losses, so will the Rebels.

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Men's tennis is up to No. 3 nationally after big weekend wins over South Carolina and Florida. In the latest poll, the Rebels trail only Baylor (No. 1) and Virginia (No. 2).

This weekend's regular season finale at Mississippi State will not be an easy task. The Rebels will be out to win their 15th straight over the Bulldogs, who were earlier in contention for the SEC regular season title but faded with three consecutive losses.

"Make no mistake. This is a very, very good Mississippi State team," Billy Chadwick said. "Our players know that, and there is a lot on the line. We want this overall SEC title."

Senior Catalin Gard said the Rebels aren't satisfied that they are SEC West champs for the fourth consecutive season. They want the overall league crown for the second straight year.

"As coach always says, a win is great, but then you have to start it all over again for the next match," the Rebels' No. 1 player said late on Sunday after winning his senior day doubles (with partner Eric Claesson) and singles matches. "Tennis is a very complicated sport. You win a point. You lose a point. It's always a battle. In tennis every single point is important – almost win or lose with every point. We know that is the way it will be in the next match. We're looking forward to it.

"We've never lost to Mississippi State since I've been here," Cat concluded, "and I don't want to start now. But we will have to play very well to win."

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The Lady Rebel golf team is hosting the SEC Women's Golf Tournament in Tunica this weekend. Play starts Friday and runs through Sunday. All 12 SEC schools will participate.

Meghan Bolger, in her fourth year as head coach at UM, said the Lady Rebels are looking forward to playing host and playing well.

"It is going to be an unbelievable event," said Bolger, who was only 23 years old when named Ole Miss women's head golf coach four years ago. "The SEC is such a great conference, and there will be really good teams in the field. And Tunica National along with Tunica County are doing such a great job of taking it all above and beyond what they have to do. It is all going to be first class."

Bolger, who has led the Lady Rebs to the NCAA Tournament the past two years, says this weekend will feature some of the best women's collegiate golfers in the nation.

"Women's golf continues to get stronger and stronger," said Bolger, herself an accomplished player – she won a record 6th straight Philadelphia (Pa.) Amateur title in the summer of 2004 near her native New Jersey home. "We've shown some great play this year for two of the three rounds as a team. Then somewhere along the way we'd have that one bad round. The girls have worked hard but it has been a struggle at times. They are learning and maturing as a program, and we will be better in the future because of that."

Bolger, a Tulane grad and four-year letterwinner in golf for the Green Wave, says the Lady Rebels are eager to host their conference competitors this weekend in Tunica.

"They are so excited," she said. "They are looking forward to welcoming the entire SEC to the area. And, of course, they want to compete and play as well as possible, too."

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