Rebs getting more used to winning regionals

Ole Miss won another Sunday finale in a regional with the ease of a veteran team and program. The Rebels beat Tulane 12-4 this time, and last season in the Sunday night game beat Oklahoma 20-5. Last year there was a celebration. This time it was simply on to the next game.

Ole Miss is getting pretty good at this regional thing.

After stumbling two years ago, the Rebels defeated Maine and Oklahoma last season to get to play Oklahoma again. They not only rolled past the Sooners 20-5, the Sunday finale basically turned into a laugher by the time the Rebels' dogpiled on the mound.

After Ole Miss finished off Tulane 12-4 this time around, there was no dogpile. Not much celebrating either. Too much unfinished business.

"We learned from Texas," said 2006 Oxford Regional MVP Justin Brashear. "Took a page from them. They were very business-like about it (when they won the Super Regional in Oxford in 2005). They knew they had work left to do. Yes we won this regional, but there's work left to do and a long way to go."

So there you go. Maturity. That's what this Ole Miss baseball program, and especially this team, is about now as much as anything.

"We just reload now," Brashear said.

No matter that there was no dogpile as a light rain fell on those who awaited the final out, this was one fun weekend for all concerned.

Even the firing of Smoke Laval at LSU, with repercussions reaching Oxford because of the Mike Bianco situation, couldn't damage the spirit of the day or the weekend.

That the Rebels were able to get past the Green Wave was as much because they were in the winner's bracket than anything else. If we haven't learned that by now, we won't ever learn it.

Last year's SEC Tournament proved that for Ole Miss in a bad way. This year's SEC Tournament proved it for Ole Miss in a positive way, as did the regional this weekend.

"I think you saw out there today what falling into the loser's bracket and a long day can do to a team," Tulane head coach Rick Jones said. "You'll feel some affects of that in game two. And Ole Miss is too good not to have a great game against them. They played well defensively and had some quality at-bats with two outs. Those kinds of things not only stretch a lead but really capture the momentum. They were able to do that."

Jones also tipped his cap to the performance of Lance Lynn, the Rebel freshman starter who went seven innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts and just one walk.

"Lynn pitched really, really well. He didn't trick us as much as he just went after us," said Jones after his team finished its season 43-21. "He did a good job of managing the strike zone early in the count. I thought we hit some balls pretty square, but we didn't have much to show for it. He just kept going after us and made some big pitches when he had to. They just played very, very well in all phases against us tonight."

After Ole Miss fell behind 2-0 in the first, the Rebels came back to put up two runs to tie it in the second and added three more in the third. Down 5-2, a sagging Green Wave team was beginning to feel the effects of not only a long day but a difficult environment for the visitors.

One huge key for Ole Miss continued to be how well this team can hit in any part of the lineup. The bottom four batters in this one - Logan Power, Justin Brashear, Mark Wright, and Evan Button - accounted for 12 of the Rebels' 15 hits in this one. They also had 10 of the Rebels' 11 RBI.

"That's not bad for the six, seven, eight, nine hitters in a championship game," Bianco said. "And they've played great defense as well."

The Rebels improved to 43-20 on the season, winning 12 of their last 13 games to date. That a team which lost so many players from last year's 48-20 ballclub could be sitting here with a Super Regional up next is nothing short of amazing to most.

"Really proud," Bianco said. "Last year was a team that was the next step, a team that name-wise and with the returners it had was supposed to be there. It was a national seed and really didn't have a bad part of the season. This year's team, I just don't know if many people expected us to be where we are - except those guys in our locker room. They expected it.

"Last year was neat, but I'm really proud of these guys," Bianco continued. "It wasn't always easy. In February and March, a lot of people weren't feeling too well."

But now they are. So bring on another Super Regional.

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