SEC Tourney Time

The SEC champions got back to work Monday in preparation for another trip to Hoover, Ala. The Rebels have done well at Regions Park lately.

In 2005, Ole Miss lost in the title game, but won the whole thing in 2006. In 2007 the Rebels were eliminated on Saturday. But last year they made it three finals in four years when they advanced to Sunday and lost.

For the first time in Coach Mike Bianco's nine seasons at Ole Miss, the Rebels advance to the conference tournament as the SEC regular season champ. They share the title with LSU, and the Tigers got the No. 1 seed because of beating Ole Miss two of three games back in March.

But the trophy third-seeded Ole Miss will be handed Wednesday prior to its first game of the tourney against sixth-seeded Georgia will say SEC Champions. There is no sharing as far as the conference office is concerned.

After the Rebels accept their trophy, they'll go about the business of getting to Sunday for the fourth time in five years and winning it all for the second time in five years.

It's been quite a run of success in Hoover, and the Rebels (40-15 overall, 20-10 SEC) want to make more history this week.

"I love the (SEC) Tournament," said junior pitcher Nathan Baker. "We've had some heartbreak back to back years, but I'm thinking we're going to get over that bump this year."

Bianco, whose team has qualified for the SEC tourney eight of the nine years he has been at Ole Miss, only missing it in year two back in 2002, said Hoover has indeed been good for his program lately.

"Certainly we've had success over there the last few years," he said. "It's just going over there and playing well, and playing well at the right time."

Bianco doesn't necessarily believe there is a best draw for a team to get in this field. All teams are good or they wouldn't be there.

"I don't know if there is a good matchup," he said. "All the teams are so good. The best matchup would be if you were fortunate enough to play the team that doesn't play well. Unfortunately you don't know who that team is going to be yet. All teams are deserving, and you have to go play well. The last few years we've played well there."

Georgia, the nation's top-ranked team when it got to Oxford the last Friday in April, won that night but lost its next two conference games to the Rebels. Since then Georgia has claimed just one SEC victory. But that doesn't mean the Bulldogs (35-20, 15-15) will continue their tailspin.

Postseason play is often an opportunity for a good ballclub to get things turned around.

"We are fighting it," said Georgia Coach David Perno, whose team was swept by Florida, lost two of three to Vanderbilt, and was swept by South Carolina to wind up the regular SEC season. "We can't get any consistency from anybody. Hopefully we'll get it going. We have been fighting it for a couple of weeks. When we turn it around, it will take pressure off some of the guys and we will go from there."

Bianco said Georgia offers the same challenge for his team now that it did a month ago in Oxford.

"We realize how good they are," he said. "We know that when we played them here, they were the No. 1 team in the country and I think the most talented team that we played all year. Our kids remember and realize what a big challenge it will be."

The game between Ole Miss and Georgia is Wednesday's second of four games and begins at 1:30 p.m. The first game at 10 a.m. matches second-seed Florida and seventh-seed Arkansas.

Game three set for 5 p.m. is No. 1 seed LSU vs. No. 8 seed Vanderbilt. In the final game of the day sometime after 8:30 p.m., No. 4 seed Alabama plays No. 5 seed South Carolina.

Justin Grimm (Soph., RHP, 4.39, 2-4) is scheduled to start for the Bulldogs. He had 13 appearances this season, all starts, including a Sunday 6-1 loss to Ole Miss in Oxford. Grimm pitched five innings that day, allowing five runs, four earned, with two strikeouts and two walks.

The Rebels will counter with Drew Pomeranz (Soph., LHP, 3.95, 6-3) who pitched the first game of the Rebels-Bulldogs series in late April, a 6-3 win by Georgia. Pomeranz went 6.1 innings with three runs, two earned, on seven hits with eight strikeouts and two walks.

Perno still believes in his team and feels they just have to play better again.

"We had a tough second half, but I'm not down or disappointed with our players," he said. "We've just got to get back to doing what we do and do them well. Our timing needs to improve."

Their next opportunity is Wednesday shortly after the noon hour.


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