Will Kline ready for another postseason run

Will Kline relaxed in the dugout at Swayze Field earlier today, close in proximity to the same place he sat some 50 weeks ago when he said he was coming back to Ole Miss to complete the dream.

That dream is a trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

It's a dream that could have come to fruition last year, since Kline announced the day before the pro draft that he was staying no matter where he was drafted. Staying at Ole Miss. Staying to get to the CWS.

Didn't happen last year, even though the Rebels hosted their second straight Super Regional the weekend after his decision to stay. Could happen this year. It's a whole new ballgame now that postseason has begun. Kline takes the mound Wednesday night in Hoover, Ala., to keep the dream alive.

"I'm ready to go," said Kline, who headed into last year's Southeastern Conference Tournament as the Rebels' ace, just like this season.

Kline's first big moment as a Rebel pitcher came last season in Jackson, a 1-0 win over Mississippi State in that non-conference affair. He'll face the instate rivals again Wednesday night. He says it is indeed something special when Ole Miss and State get together.

"It doesn't matter if it is in Alabama, there will be a lot of fans from Mississippi there," he said. "Anytime we play Mississippi State in anything anywhere, it's a big deal. We've played them four times already. We want to go out and play well. This is what you play for – the postseason."

The Rebels won two of three games in the series in Oxford in late April, dropping the finale 4-1 in 17 innings after winning the second game 5-1.

The Rebels won Kline's Friday night start 17-7 with the fourth-year junior right-hander pitching as the Rebs built a 14-1 lead before the Bulldogs made a comeback and Kline gave way to Brett Bukvich in the fifth.

State had gotten the Governor's Cup game in Pearl 14-9 in early April.

Both Ole Miss and MSU feel they have NCAA Regional hosting possibilities. Both camps feel a win on Wednesday night will help their cause and boost their resumes'.

"I feel like if the season ended today, I think it would still be tough not to make us a Regional host," Kline said. "We've lost some games, but the only game we haven't really been in was the Kentucky game on Friday night (an 8-1 Rebel loss). Other than that one, all the 55 other games we played I thought we were just as tough as anybody. We've played one of the toughest schedules in the country. We've beaten a lot of good teams on the road. Yes, we've lost our share of games, but I feel like we deserve to host a Regional."

The game Wednesday night pits the two most recent champions of this event against each other. State beat Ole Miss for the title in 2005. Ole Miss beat Vanderbilt for the crown in 2006.

But none of that matters at this point, not even the game Kline won that solidified him as a bonafide college pitcher against MSU in Jackson last April.

Kline says he does remember that game with fondness, but last year's SEC tourney is an even greater memory for him.

"One thing I can't quit thinking about is last year's SEC Tournament," said Kline, who pitched the opening win over Arkansas, tying his season-high nine strikeouts, then closed the title game vs. Vandy on Sunday. "Just how much fun that was and how well that went. We're the defending champions and we need to go in with a chip on our shoulder like everyone's out to get us. Because I feel like they are."

Kline feels great. Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said Kline's back hurt a little after his last start on Thursday at Arkansas. But that's normal, Bianco added, when the seasons are long and there has been a lot of mound work for an ace.

Kline said his shoulder hurt some early in the year, but his arm is as strong right now as it's been all season.

"It's so weird, as the season has gone on, my arm has felt better and better and responded better and better, knock on wood," he said. "Right now is the best my arm has felt all year. I'm fortunate to have it feel this way at this time of year, because this is what we play for – this time of year."

Kline says his body bounces back from pitching performances pretty quickly.

"I've always been a rubber arm kind of guy," he said. "I've been able to throw and not let it be where I can't throw for five days. I've never been like that. By day two or three I'm pretty much back to normal. Some good conditioning speeds up the process."

Kline said he feels it's been a successful year, despite the fact that he has only a 5-2 record in decisions with 15 appearances, a team-high 101 innings pitched, and a 3.92 ERA.

"It's been a good year," the Tupelo High grad said. "It's been right on target. It's been fun. I would have loved to have had some better outings to give our team a chance to win more. But it's about being able to 'flush it.' I think I've learned that more this year than any other year, just put things behind me and move forward."

And it's not over yet.

"Everything is still in our grasp," he said. "Everything we play for, which is a national championship, is still there. I feel like we've got the ballclub to do it."

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