There doesn't seem to be any giddy anticipation from the players, none of that first or even second time uncertainty and wide-eyedness. That was more back in 2004 or maybe even 2005. Just business as usual these days.
Sure, they know how important it is. But it's as if the program's all grown up.
Will Kline, Zack Cozart, and Justin Henry visited with the media down underneath the first base side at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field today, and they admitted something we all already knew. They've been here before. And that helps them keep it all in perspective.
"It's just another game for us," said Cozart, a veteran of two Regionals and two Super Regionals, all played in Oxford. "We try not to look at it as a situation where the higher seed should win. We have confidence. We have Will (Kline) going, one of the best in the conference and the country. If we play well as a team we should be fine. That's the way we look at it."
Team captain Henry agrees.
"I don't feel we have any added pressure on us," he said. "We've had a really good week of practice. We seem loose and ready to go. We've got a lot of guys who have been in this situation before. Most of us were here last year."
But Henry says the team knows the importance of playing each game to the best of their abilities - or else.
"We don't feel any added pressure (that it's the postseason)," he said. "But we know this is the time of year you either win or you go home."
The Rebels haven't gone home this early since the 2004 Oxford Regional. Or have they? In actuality they have since they played host to Super Regionals the past two years - in 2005 as a national seed (5th) vs. Texas, and last year when Miami won the Regional at Nebraska then came to Oxford.
But in 2004, the first time the Rebels hosted, it was two and out - and over - as Western Kentucky and Washington combined to eliminate Ole Miss by Saturday morning. Since then the Rebels have claimed two Oxford Regional titles and hosted again the following weekend.
Kline admitted it hasn't been as easy a year for him as he would have hoped. Of course, that could basically be said for the entire team.
The Rebels come in 37-23, without a three-game sweep on their resume' and with all those close heartbreakers, which they were actually able to move past and win again, often the following day.
"It's been a tough year, but it's been a successful one as well," said Kline, with a 6-2 record, a 3.68 ERA, two complete games, 110 innings pitched, 123 strikeouts, 38 walks, and an opponent's batting average of .227. "As a whole this staff's pitched great. There've been times a starter has thrown well and come out with a no decision. It's just kind of the way the season's gone. It's nothing that's made us put our heads down and be down on ourselves. We all believe in one another. We've just been unfortunate sometimes this year."
Mike Bianco said no matter the player, pitcher, or circumstance, the tough road to the Oxford Regional has likely made the Rebels a better team.
"I really feel that with all these tough games, it tests you," said Bianco, who has taken six of seven Ole Miss teams to the NCAA Tournament since arriving prior to the 2001 season. "I don't know if there's a more tested team than this team. You hope that when you get to this point you can handle the emotion and all the things that go into playing in the NCAA Tournament."
Rebels confident and ready for Regional
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