On to Hoover

As a fifth-year senior, Ole Miss third baseman Zach Miller has been around the block a time or two.

There are few surprises anymore. He's appeared in well over 200 career games, experienced Regionals and Super Regionals, and seen far more success than failure since breaking in 2007, when he was named a Freshman All-American.

But over the weekend, Ole Miss was swept for the first time since 2006. It was unfamiliar ground for Miller. The Rebels, chiefly due to an anemic offense, were outscored, 34-5.

"I've never seen something like that in all my life," he said. "It's just never happened. I don't think I've gotten swept since I've been here."

Ole Miss, amidst a five-game losing streak, faces South Carolina in the first round of the SEC Tournament Wednesday at 1 p.m. The Rebels have lost seven of their last 10 games, while dropping their overall season record to 36-20 and 16-14 in Southeastern Conference games.

"We have to focus on this being a new season now," Miller said. "We just need to work hard each day and worry about winning that day and not worry about what's to follow. We just need to worry about competing hard each day."

Matt Smith

The Rebels, after a fundamental workout Monday, returned to the practice fields Tuesday afternoon at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala., home of the conference tournament.

Regaining confidence, at least according to Miller, is the team's primary focus.

"I look back at when we won those 10 games, that's when we were really clicking as a team chemistry-wise," he said. "In that period we weren't really worried about things and not think too much at the plate and just reacting.

"The SEC Tournament is a great atmosphere. We just need to go out there and have fun. We just need to compete and try to beat the pitcher. It's you against the pitcher."

A new season:

Matt Smith, usually outspoken and a calming veteran presence, was clearly frustrated following an 11-1 loss to Auburn Saturday.

As usual, the Rebels gathered around center field after the game. Matt Mossberg, in his first year as Ole Miss' hitting coach, issued a pep talk for an offense gone sour over a two-week span.

Smith, with dejection written on his face, took off his jersey and approached the media.

He had little to no answers for his team's collective struggles at the plate. He didn't know what to say anymore. For the first time this season, he seemed at a loss for words.

"You've just got to keep swinging," he said after another uninspired offensive performance. "Obviously, we didn't swing it well. It can't get much worse than what you saw this weekend, offensively."

Monday, though, he returned in better spirits. The postseason offers new opportunity for a reeling Ole Miss team who has lost seven of its last nine SEC games to end the regular season.

"The last couple of weeks, we haven't play well," Smith said. "Postseason is like a new season. That's how you kind of look at i. Play well through postseason, and nothing else will really matter. People will remember what we do in postseason hopefully what we did in the regular season."

Smith said Mossberg sent out a text message Sunday night, calling for each player "to write some things down" from when they were having success at the plate. The assignment was one of many anecdotes used lately to help Ole Miss break out of its late-season offensive funk.

"We're not going to change anything," Smith said. "It's just more focus in certain at-bats, certain innings, certain things where it doesn't seem we're as locked in. Take a couple of innings where we score runs this past weekend or some other games then it's a totally different weekend, or make different plays or different pitches. I think it's more of a focus thing than anything."

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