HOOVER, Ala. - The Ole Miss baseball team wrapped up its hour-long workout at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium at 5 p.m. Tuesday and then had the longest wait of all.
The Rebels are set to play Alabama at 8 p.m. in the first-day finale of the 2005 Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament Wednesday. There's a better than average chance the game won't actually start until later since it is the fourth contest of the day.
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said it's nice that the hotel the Rebels are staying in - the Wynfrey - is attached to the Galleria.
"They are basically on their own Wednesday until we meet for the pregame meal," he said. "They'll just hang around the hotel and the mall. And I would guess some of them will watch the earlier games on television."
The pregame meal is at 4 p.m., four hours before the game, just like always. There's really nothing that can be done about any type of delay three baseball games already played might cause.
"You just adjust as things go along," Bianco said. "We'll try to keep things as close to the scheduled times as possible."
The Rebels will head to batting practice at nearby Hoover High School at 5 p.m.
There was some evaluating about how to set up the pitching rotation this week. Bianco and staff decided on Friday night starter Mark Holliman in game one and Saturday starter Matt Maloney in game two.
"We just wanted to keep things like they have been," he said. "We wanted Mark to pitch the first game, and win or lose we wanted Matt to pitch the second game."
Both pitchers normally have a week between outings. Holliman has all season and Maloney since he became the Saturday starter on April 9, the fourth series of the 10 SEC weekends.
"They are fine with a shorter time period," said Bianco. "They both feel strong and neither have had any problems the whole year to say they couldn't do this. So we believe going Holliman and Maloney is the right thing to do."
Holliman says he is pleased to be the first-game starter.
"Being able to go out there and start the weekend and get this team going, that's what I want to do," said the junior RHP with a 4.35 ERA who is 6-3 with 14 appearances, all Friday starts. "It's important for us to get off to a good start, and it's good that we're trying to stay in the same routine."
He says his arm feels great as postseason begins.
"I feel like I've gotten stronger as the weeks have gone by," said Holliman, who has pitched a team-leading 91 innings this season. "Hopefully that will continue in the weeks ahead and I can help us get a few more wins."
Holliman said he knows he will be pitching Wednesday night in front of a partisan Alabama crowd.
"But we have an awesome fanbase, and I am sure a lot of them will be here supporting us," he said. "It should be another great atmosphere."
The Rebels roll into Hoover with a five-game win streak after a sweep at Arkansas last weekend and with wins in the final two games of the South Carolina series. At 40-16 overall (the only SEC team to reach 40 wins so far this year) and 18-12 in the league, they are clearly one of the favorites to win the title this week.
Many of the players have been to Hoover before. One who hasn't but who has played a significant role in the Rebels' stellar season is true freshman Zack Cozart.
The shortstop, who played in 55 of the Rebels 56 games and started 50 of them, said he looks forward to the challenge of playing in college baseball's postseason.
"I don't feel like a freshman at all anymore," said Cozart, named as the All-SEC Freshman Team's shortstop (Justin Henry made it as the first baseman). "The first game (Feb. 15, a 10-0 win over Arkansas State) seems like a year ago. That's the main difference in college and high school. You just play so many more games."
Cozart said he is proud of the honor of being an All-SEC Freshman Team member, but he says it's still all about the team.
"It feels good to help the team and for us to get to this point where we are right now," said Cozart, who batted .275 with 13 doubles, one triple, and nine home runs along with 40 RBI. "It is a good accomplishment for me. Obviously I had some personal goals coming in and that was one of them. But it's all about the team goals now, and we move on from here."
Prior to the Ole Miss-Alabama matchup, Mississippi State will play LSU at 10 a.m. followed by South Carolina and Tennessee at 1 p.m. and Florida and Arkansas at 5 p.m.
The seeds are as follows - Florida (overall SEC champion and SEC East champion) is the top seed followed by LSU (SEC West co-champions) at No. 2, Tennessee at No. 3, SEC West co-champ Ole Miss fourth, Alabama fifth, South Carolina sixth, Mississippi State seventh, and Arkansas eighth.
All games are televised on either CSS or FSN.
Rebel sophomore catcher Justin Brashear has been named to the SEC Baseball Good Works Team. Brashear participated in "Bats & Balls" Baseball Clinics, which benefits underprivileged children. He also worked with other youth baseball clinics, Lafayette Middle School Career Day 2004, Oxford Food Pantry canned food drives and Reading with the Rebels.
Brashear and his teammates visit the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis each spring, while he also is involved with the Toys for Tots program. He is a member of SAAC, where he has served as community service chair and officer. He is also a member of various SEC and Ole Miss academic honor rolls.
Tickets are available for purchase at the stadium for all games. A $10 general admission ticket gets you into one session, which consists of two games. There are two sessions Wednesday and two Thursday.
If you are sitting in the Hoover Met, have a radio, and want to listen to the Ole Miss radio network broadcast with David Kellum and Richard Cross, tune in to 88.9 FM during Rebel games this week to listen while you watch.
Press Box Notebook (from SEC baseball tourney)
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