From Thursday's Rebel practice session

Ole Miss practiced first Thursday and the remainder of the Oxford Regional teams followed. The Rebel players said they are ready to continue the hot streak they've been on in May as the calendar turns to June. Ole Miss has won nine of its last 10 games this season.

"Who's coming to the press conference?" we asked prior to the Rebels entering the underneath area of the first base side of Oxford-University Stadium.

"Looks like the whole team," quipped a bystander as seven or eight Rebels made their way into the area so we could grill them about all things Ole Miss baseball.

They are a relaxed, confident, and focused bunch, much like their head coach, Mike Bianco.

"Surely this team understands what it takes to win," Bianco said when asked if this team has been a work in progress since the days even before a 13-11 start to now standing 40-20. "They know what it's like to win, but they also know what it's like to lose and not play well. They know what it's like to feel bad.

"The last month and a half they've played better. There were times this season I'm certain they weren't sure they'd survive it all. But they have and we're a better team for it. I say we're confident in a good way. Relaxed, anxious and ready to play."

Bianco says mentally this team is light years from where it started.

"This is a team that had a lot of trouble finding itself early in the season. Now they've had some success and they have some confidence. They've come a long way."

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Don't even think for a second the top-seeded Rebels are looking past fourth-seeded Bethune-Cookman. And they shouldn't. Not just because some of the current Rebs can remember what fourth-seeded Western Kentucky did to their hopes just two seasons ago. But that's certainly one of the reasons.

"Anytime you go through something like that, it's a learning experience," said third-year third baseman Chris Coghlan. "You'd better learn from a situation like that. It just shows how much parity there is in college baseball, and that you can't take anybody lightly, not even a four seed. The first game is as important as the rest. We won't overlook Bethune-Cookman. They're here for a reason and it's because they're good. They won their conference and we're looking forward to playing them."

The Wildcats are a seasoned program, too, having been in the NCAA Tournament seven of the last eight years.

If BCC isn't a stranger to regionals, neither is Ole Miss, and that also goes for hosting. Alex Presley has been a part of three straight Oxford Regionals.

"We know what to expect more than anything," the junior center fielder said. "We've done this three years in a row now. It's mainly that you know what's coming and how to prepare."

"It's a lot more relaxing now that we've been through it a couple of times," said Coghlan. "Maybe it makes it a little easier because we have been through it before."

And by no means, as they mentioned earlier, is it because they don't feel the field is strong. It is, and they know it.

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The Rebels want to kickstart their games with the explosive offense they've displayed late this season.

"The way Justin Henry gets on base with a walk or a hit is big," Coghlan said. "That's hard for a pitcher or a defense to control, especially with the way we run. We want to start out hot and get on base as soon as possible."

Henry said the offense has been a real key to the Rebels' run this season.

"Our top five hitters are all hitting .340 or so," said the team captain. "It's been fun for me when I get on base. I'm not left stranded too many times out there. It's been beneficial to us for winning games. But our offense top to bottom has been great lately. It's a pretty imposing lineup, and we've got to continue to swing the bats the way we have been."

"We're looking forward to getting off to a good start," said Mark Wright, the SEC tourney MVP. "It's the top of the lineup that does that for us."

But as everyone knows, the bottom of the Rebels' lineup is effective as well. Look no further than Wright.

"It's almost like having two lineups," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "That's how well all the guys have been hitting up and down the line."

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Tulane and South Alabama play game one of the tourney at 3 p.m. Friday. Sometimes players from the other two teams will watch other games they don't play.

Rebel starter Will Kline says he will probably stay at the house and chill as the Green Wave and Jaguars battle it out on a hot June Mississippi afternoon.

"I'm going to try to stay in the air conditioning," he said. "I'd love to get here and watch that first game, but I've been around long enough to know how the heat can take the energy out of you. I want to definitely be able to give 110 percent Friday night."

Other players said they might come on to the park a little early just to check things out.

"We'll go eat (pregame meal) at 3 and then come up here and find some shade or a cooler place," Henry said. "We might watch a little bit of it but not stay out there too long. We'll probably spend some time in the locker room and try to stay cool."

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Oxford is gaining a national reputation for hosting baseball Regionals and Super Regionals. Bianco says Ole Miss has become one of the best hosts sites anywhere. Some of that is from having done it before now, and some of it is the effort put into it by Ole Miss people.

"The more you do it, the better you get," he said. "We don't take any of this for granted. We understand how important it is to play at home. The first year you worry about a lot of things. We always want to be excellent, but that first year you worry about more.

"Our people do as good a job here as anyplace I've been. I don't have to worry about much. They want me to coach. Of course, knowing me, that's hard for me to do, just coach when we're hosting. I'm hands-on. But things are done well here as far as hosting. A lot of people know that, and a lot of people have a hand in making it happen."

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