Kline looks toward Super Regional road trip

A year ago Will Kline announced to the world he was staying at Ole Miss for another season. He could have gone pro. It was his third year in college; a redshirt sophomore.

But he told us how much he loved Ole Miss, how much he loved playing college baseball and pitching at this level.

Another factor was obviously that his love affair with the college game had just blossomed in the two months prior, starting with a mid-season 1-0 victory over Mississippi State in Jackson, a game where the Tupelo righty, with the "wicked stuff" as his teammates called it, came of age.

He "aced" his way through the rest of last year and throughout this year. His numbers have been similar. Of course, this year he's pitched a lot more innings.

Last season Kline had a 3.71 ERA and a 5-2 record with 22 appearances and six starts, most of those the last few weeks of the Super Regional season. He pitched 68 innings all season in 2006.

This year, the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has basically the same ERA at 3.72 and a 7-2 record with 17 appearances, all starts, in 116 innings.

He says he's fresh and ready for the Saturday start in Tempe, Ariz., which could be called his most important start to date in college, since it could be his last.

But his mindset as he heads west later this week is the same as always – he's just one of the arms for the Rebs.

"I just don't view myself as the ace of this staff," Kline said, humbly "We've got so many great arms, I just don't know if we've got an ace. If there is an ace, in my opinion it has to be Lance Lynn. I just happen to throw first on the weekends."

Kline knows how tough the Sun Devils will be. Offensively they're as potent as any team in college baseball, batting .351 as a team with nine players having more than 100 at-bats on the season who average over .300 – one of them, slugger Brett Wallace, batting a remarkable .420.

"I'm a big stat guy. I like to check teams out," Kline said. "I'd looked at Arizona State even before the brackets came out just to see how they were doing since I heard they were one of the best hitting teams in the country. Other than that, I don't know much about them. Coach (Mike) Bianco will let us know more about them today (Monday), and we'll work on our game plan."

He knows how important his performance will be for the team. It's been that way all year.

"Pitching and defense have been the staple of our team the whole year," Kline said. "It still is. We didn't pitch all that well in the (Regional) Tournament. But this time of year it's not about stats it's about winning games; it's not about ERA it's about scoring more runs than the other team. With Lance and me going, we should have a good shot."

Indeed they should, which has been the case all year in games one and two of any given weekend. Lynn, a second-year sophomore, will be back next season. Kline likely not.

He wouldn't say for sure that he won't come back for a fifth season, a fourth to pitch. The draft is Thursday. He's ready for it but keeps it all in perspective.

"I'm human and it's only natural to be excited about it," he said. "But it's not really my main focus now. It's going to take care of itself. I've done all I can and pitched as well as I could. I'm more excited about pitching against Arizona State. But I am excited about the draft. Pitching is my goal. It's what I want to do, and that's continue to play baseball."

His next performance as a Rebel will be more than a thousand miles from north Mississippi. Kline's OK with that. He'd prefer to pitch in Oxford, but that's not an option now.

"I like the idea of being on the road," he said. "I guess one of the main reasons is that we haven't had the success here we'd like to have (in Super Regionals). We've won the first game, but we haven't been able to pull off that second one. We're excited to have the chance to play and the opportunity in front of us. It's in our hands to do what we want to do, and we're looking forward to something new."

Yes, new as in a Super Regional on the road, and new as in Omaha. They draw on the fact that the past two years teams have gone on the road – namely to Oxford – and wound up in Omaha after Super Regionals.

"Going out to Arizona State will actually be cool, and we're looking forward to it," he said. "Miami and Texas came in here and proved it could be done, even after losing the first game. Unfortunately that was against us, but we saw that it can be done. It's motivation for us to keep our heads up whatever the situation and win two games."

A trip to the College World Series, which would be a first for Ole Miss in 35 years after making four appearances the previous 16 years, is something they desperately want as they head to Pac-10 country.

"It was so disappointing last year (losing two of three to Miami in Oxford)," he said. "The whole goal of your season is to get to Omaha and play for a national championship. We're excited and we have a good group of guys who believe in each other. The opportunity is ours to take."

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