Wells says watch out for these Rebels

Alabama head coach Jim Wells says his Crimson Tide caught Ole Miss at a good time earlier in the season when they swept the Rebels. But now he says the Rebels are as hot as anybody around. Ole Miss eliminated Alabama from the SEC tourney 9-2 on Saturday.

HOOVER, Ala. - Jim Wells, whose Crimson Tide swept Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa in March, said it's not a good time to be playing the Rebels.

"We got pretty handily beaten today," said the veteran Alabama manager who has won this tournament five times in his 12 seasons with the Tide. "They are playing very well. We played them at a good time earlier in the year."

Late May hasn't been a good time for anybody to play the Rebels. After losing a Friday night game 12-3 at home to Arkansas, the Rebels have won eight of nine games. That came on the heels of a four-game losing streak - three at Kentucky and the opener with the Razorbacks. Since then, they've been almost invincible.

Wells said the Rebels are maybe even a better "team" than last year when they had so many great players who are now playing pro baseball. But he also says there are some experienced veterans who returned.

"They lost (Stephen) Head and (Brian) Pettway and some others, but everybody else is back," Wells said. "Guys like (Zack) Cozart, (Chris) Coghlan, (Mark) Wright, (Alex) Presley. They can run. They can hit. They can throw it. They're athletic. When we played them earlier, it was like they didn't have Head or Pettway to win the game. And of course they lost those pitchers that went in the top five rounds. That takes some getting used to.

"Their whole team is better now. They're playing guys who weren't playing when we played them, and they're pitching guys who weren't pitching when we played them. They're very talented. They just lost five to seven top 10 round picks. They lost some good players and it took some time."

But Wells takes it one step further based on what he saw in Saturday's contest.

"They do a great job year in and year out. They recruit well. They're well-coached. Last year was a pressure situation for them. They were expected to do very well. There was pressure to get there. I wouldn't be surprised if this team gets to Omaha."

It has all come together for the Rebels at the right time, and it is a team of not only talent but also confidence. This team appears to hit up and down the lineup better than last year's team. But it's been the young pitchers who've grown up that may have held the key to the Rebels being 39-20 at this point and a game away from taking a trophy back to Oxford.

"Ole Miss is very hot right now," said Alabama third baseman Matt Downs. "They're playing as well as anybody around."

Just about every team they've faced in May knows that.

The Rebels play for the SEC title vs. Vanderbilt at 3 p.m. here on Sunday.

"We've played well for three games in a row here, and that's nice to see," said UM head coach Mike Bianco, in his second straight SEC championship game with the Rebels. "It's all about playing one game and playing it well, then moving to the next game and playing it well."

And now they just have to do that one more time.

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