Baseball Rebs back at work

The Ole Miss baseball team is already working toward another championship season. After winning the SEC tourney last spring and hosting Super Regionals the past two seasons, the goal remains the same - Omaha.

They gathered last weekend and ran the annual two-mile on Monday. This week they started lifting and conditioning and participating in individual workouts.

It's been more than two months since Miami won two of three games in Oxford to advance to the College World Series. This week, the Rebels are back together with their goal once again a trip to Omaha next summer.

"It's been a busy summer," said seventh-year Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, who had two coaches leave the program and two more join since June. "All the players are here that we expected to be. It's good to get started again."

Two players that were signed who didn't arrive were Justin Reed of Jackson, who signed a pro contract after being drafted in June, and Matt Holliman of Germantown, Tenn., who will play at Meridian Community College this year.

Gone from the program are assistants Dan McDonnell, the new head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, and Stuart Lake, now an assistant at The Citadel. Bianco's staff now consists of Kyle Bunn and Carl Lafferty, along with newcomers Rob Reinstetle and former UM player Matt Mossberg.

"The first six years I was a head coach - three at McNeese State and three at Ole Miss - I never had the same total staff from one year to the next," Bianco said. "The last three years here we did. There was a lot of continuity. Now we have some changes, and change can be good. There's some new energy. There's a lot of enthusiasm and excitement.

"I know when Rob addressed the hitters (Monday) there was a sparkle in his eyes and he even mentioned to me how excited he was to get started. That's what having new staff members can do. I know it has energized me. You don't ever want to get content or complacent, but things can become normal or routine. Change can often be good."

And that's the approach Bianco and the program are taking heading into what should be another successful school year. Gone are key members of the 2005-06 team, like All-American third baseman Chris Coghlan, SEC Tournament MVP outfielder Mark Wright, and Oxford Regional MVP catcher Justin Brashear among them. But a lot of talent returns, led by a still young but experienced pitching staff that should be deep, and players like Team USA shortstop Zack Cozart and last year's UM team captain second baseman Justin Henry.

Replacing a couple of outfielders with the departure of Alex Presley and Wright, along with finding a catcher to replace Brashear and a third baseman in Coghlan's spot are among the priorities for fall baseball practice, which officially begins Sept. 18.

Returning from injury and surgery are designated hitter Kyle Mills and pitcher Nick Hetland. A talented group of freshmen and transfers, another top 20 nationally ranked recruiting class, joins the program as well.

"It was a great summer for our kids," Bianco said. "A lot of them had a lot of success this summer, including Zack Cozart who played for his country and won a gold medal. We're glad to get started, and we look forward to working hard to get ready for fall practice in a few weeks."

In other Rebel baseball news, construction on the new coaches offices at the stadium is underway, and work on the outfield areas to add to the existing terracing in both left and right field will also be done this late summer and fall.

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