Clearing Their Minds

The Ole Miss baseball team needed some time away from the game Sunday, as some of the players went fishing, some hung out at the pool, all of them basically chilled.

Mike Bianco, head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels, spent some time watching one of his kids play little league baseball.

"I went to Mass yesterday morning," Bianco smiled and said, although that's not unusual since he and his family are regular church goers. "Hopefully that will help."

These have not been the best of times for the Rebels, losers of their last five games to finish 36-20 overall and 16-14 in Southeastern Conference games.

"Then I went up to Memphis and watched my son play baseball for the first time in a long time," he continued. "The one bad thing about being a baseball coach is you don't get to see your kids play baseball."

And Bianco has several of them to watch. The son he was watching play was Sam, the youngest of four boys and five children total, born in the time frame between the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., and the NCAA Regional in New Orleans back in 2001.

"Then we came back and swam in the pool with all five of them, and tried to get it out of my mind," he said, "because that doesn't happen much."

For the ninth time in 10 seasons at Ole Miss, Bianco will lead a team to the SEC tourney in Hoover. Prior to his arrival, the Rebels had only made the eight-team field once since the current format began in 1996, and that was in 1999.

Now regulars in the league's postseason event, this year it's about regrouping and finding themselves since that 10-game, 100-run win streak of late April-early May that seems far, far away now.

"You can look back in the past and see stories where teams haven't played well at the end and then got to Hoover and postseason in general and played much better," he said. "The good news is, we know we're capable. That isn't to sugarcoat the end, because nobody is more disappointed than we are. With three weeks remaining, we had an opportunity to do a lot of neat things. But now it becomes tournament time with a different kind of mindset."

The Rebels say they joined their coach to get away from the game for just a bit on Sunday.

"Went fishing," Matt Smith said. "Got out of Oxford. Just get away from everything and just go somewhere and relax and just think a little bit, basically. Couple of guys went to the pool. Couple of guys went fishing. Different guys do different things. Me personally, I just like to get away from stuff. Get away from the apartment, the same stuff you do on a daily basis, and go do something different."

Mike Bianco

Bianco said there are success stories he can share with the team, and that the players know teams who have made a postseason run after not accomplishing what they set out to do. And those reflections can help.

"But at the end of the day, it's how you feel inside and who you are, and it's coming out and playing," he said. "It's being able to do it on the field. And that's what we need to do. The good news is we've done it. We have played well and beaten good teams. Now it's time."

Smith agrees wholeheartedly.

"The last couple of weeks we haven't played as well as we would have liked," he said. "Postseason is like a new season, and that's how we look at it. If we play well through the postseason, nothing else really matters. Everybody will remember what we did in postseason hopefully more than what we did in the regular season."

Ole Miss, the sixth-seed, meets South Carolina (43-13, 21-9), the third-seed, Wednesday afternoon, 30 minutes following the Auburn-Alabama game which begins at 9:30 a.m.

Junior LHP Drew Pomeranz (7-2 record, 2.39 ERA) is scheduled to start for Ole Miss, while sophomore LHP Nolan Belcher (3-0, 2.03) is the scheduled Gamecock starter.

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