The baseball Rebels practiced under the lights of Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field Wednesday night. They'll have a quick turnaround for their next practice which is Thursday morning at 10.
Ole Miss is up first during Thursday's pre-tournament workouts. The top-seeded Rebels will go from 10 a.m. until 11:15, followed by second-seeded Tulane at 11:30 a.m., third-seeded South Alabama at 1 p.m., and fourth-seeded Bethune-Cookman at 2:30 p.m.
Will Kline, the Rebels' first game starter, says he's ready to pitch under the Friday night lights as Ole Miss now focuses all its attention on the NCAA Tournament and getting to the College World Series.
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Kline, certainly one of the headline stories for the 40-20 Rebels this season. "It will be a fun experience pitching on the first night in a regional."
Kline started the Rebels' first game in the recent Southeastern Conference Tournament against Arkansas which UM won 9-4, then closed out the Sunday finale title match vs. Vandy, a 9-3 Reb win.
"No big deal (to pitch again so soon)," Kline said, who moved into the first-game starter's role against MSU to end the regular season. "No problems with the arm at all. I actually wanted to pitch in the Sunday game over there. I was so pumped up that if my arm was sore or bothering me, I didn't notice."
There was some thought given, as is always the case in regionals, about not pitching the "ace" in the first game and waiting until the second game. Two years ago Ole Miss started Stephen Head against Western Kentucky. No fault of Head's on the mound, but the Rebels lost 1-0 and fell immediately into the losers' bracket. The following day "ace" Mark Holliman started but the Rebels were eliminated by the Washington Huskies 7-2 to end the season.
Last year the Rebels went the more conventional route and started Holliman in a 5-0 win against Maine to get things rolling toward a regional crown.
"I'm not really surprised I'm starting," Kline said. "We know Bethune-Cookman is a good team, and this time of year you can't take anyone lightly. They made the regional for a reason, and the reason is they're good. They obviously did what it takes to get here."
What they did was win their conference. The Wildcats are the champions of the MEAC, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Bethune-Cookman earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament via winning the championship last weekend in Norfolk, Va. It was the Wildcats' 10th conference title overall and the seventh in the last eight years.
Kline says the Rebels have their sights set only on Bethune-Cookman and are eagerly awaiting the start of the 2006 Oxford Regional.
"All 64 teams are 0-0 right now," Kline said. "Getting to this point is what you fight for. This is why you want to have a good record. This is why you want to do good in your conference. We always want to host a regional. Now that we are again, we want to win it."
Peyton Farr's role with the Rebels has increased this season. The third-year sophomore, a former high school teammate of baseball's Alex Presley and football's Robert Lane, has played in 27 games this season with one start. The start came on April 26, Farr's 22nd birthday against his hometown team, Louisiana-Monroe, a 12-6 UM win. He went 2-for-5 on the day with two RBI.
Farr has mostly entered games late as a replacement for starting first baseman C.J. Ketchum. It's a role Farr has enjoyed this season but hopes for a more involved one in the future, even into the remainder of this postseason.
"I'm approaching 30 games now, and that's been nice," said Farr, a Neville High School grad, who is batting .267 this season. "I've always been a pretty good defensive player, and I've pretty much gone in this year in the seventh or eighth for defense. A lot of times C.J. will get on and JoJo (Tann) goes in to run. Then I go in to play defense. It's nice to be able to contribute to the team and get involved in the games."
Farr, whose his mother's brother is former NFL quarterback Bubby Brister, says his uncle plans to be here this weekend.
"He lives in Mandeville (La.) and has made a couple of games before," Farr said. "Right now he's planning on coming up."
Evan Button's another Rebel whose role has been limited this season, but as a true freshman he's contributed quite a bit. The St. Louis native is a true infielder who has played in the outfield this season and also in the DH role.
Button says his first year in college has been a positive experience.
"Whenever I'm playing I'm happy," said Button, who has started 32 games and played in 46 of the Rebels' 60 contests so far this season. "Anytime I see my name in the lineup, I get excited. I just want to be out there playing."
With Logan Power finding a home in left field lately and with Alex Presley and Mark Wright firmly entrenched in center and right respectively, Button has been more of a DHer. Still, he's contributing as he has all season, and now that it's postseason he's hoping to help out even more.
"I'm just here to do my job and help us do whatever it takes to win," said Button, batting .273 with two doubles and three triples. "I've learned a lot this year. This is an amazing place. Playing in front of all these fans has been special this year. Everybody's been nice, and it's been a great experience this year."
We plan to have a wrapup of the Thursday Ole Miss practice session and news conference to follow sometime in the early afternoon. We'll also have some reports from the other teams here as well.
Rebels practice under the lights Wednesday
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