Rebels face uphill climb at SEC Tournament|[05/20/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Having scraped and clawed their way into the Southeastern Conference Tournament, the Ole Miss Rebels are looking to make a run through the tournament and into an NCAA Regional.

The Rebels (34-22), who had to beat Kentucky on Saturday in the final regular season game to lock up a tournament berth, will be the eighth and final seed when the SEC’s annual tournament kicks off on Wednesday. The Rebels will lock horns with SEC East champion Georgia at 5 p.m. The winner will meet either Alabama or Kentucky in the second round.

“I was disappointed in the way we played Thursday and Friday. We did not play with a lot of confidence,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said of his team’s two losses in the final weekend series. “We wanted to get here, though, and now maybe our guys will relax a little and just play.”

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The Rebels lost two-of-three to Georgia in the regular season. Ole Miss will throw righty Lance Lynn on Wednesday. The fireballer underwent an MRI exam on his injured leg, but Bianco said Lynn would start.

“He sent me a text message saying he was ready to go,” Bianco said. “A few days ago, we were skeptical about him coming back and it could change after we see how he throws off the mound. We’ll test him.”

The Rebels will be facing a Georgia team looking for the school’s first SEC tournament championship. The Bulldogs are led by Gordon Beckham, who, with a .401 batting average is second in the SEC. Beckham has hit 23 home runs this season. Rick Poythress is hitting .365 with 17 doubles and 12 homers.

“It’s been a great run so far, but we didn’t finish like we wanted to,” said Georgia coach David Perno, whose team is coming off two losses in the final weekend series. “We were fortunate that we locked up the No. 1 spot when we did.”

The hottest team to enter the tournament is LSU. The Tigers have won 16 straight games – the longest active winning streak in college baseball. The Tigers won the SEC West and will battle No. 7 seed South Carolina in the tournament opener at 10 Wednesday morning.

“We talk very little about the streak,” second-year LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “We were 6-11-1 in the SEC this season just hoping to make it to Hoover. We try to keep the kids’ eyes on the most immediate challenge and that is against a very good South Carolina team.”

Florida will battle Vanderbilt in the other tournament game.

Eagles avoid Rice in C-USA bracket

Southern Miss opens the Conference USA tournament on Wednesday at 4 against Central Florida in New Orleans.

As the second seed, the Eagles are on the opposite side of the bracket as Rice, the most dominant team in Conference USA baseball history.

With a good showing at Tulane, Palmer said he is hoping to attract an NCAA Regional to newly refurbished Pete Taylor Park.