New Year, New Mindset For Rebels In Postseason

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Picked to finish sixth in the SEC Western Division prior to the start of the season, Ole Miss has played with a chip on its shoulder, and it has paid off with a division title and selection as a regional host for the first time since 2009.

"Everybody coming into this year, we knew we weren't projected as high as people said we could be," senior catcher Will Allen said. "We played with a chip on our shoulder the whole season, and that's had some success. It's a good group of guys and the way we mesh and play together. We have been pretty consistent all year."

Compared to previous years, the players notice a better approach and energy with this year's team.

"Last year, it was pretty tight," said junior right-hander Chris Ellis, who will get the start Friday. "A couple of days before the regional, you knew how it was. This year, it's been a lot better and it's a lot nicer and easier on us to play at home."

Ellis credited the leadership of senior co-captains Will Allen and Austin Anderson for the change, as the Rebels look to advance out of a regional for the first time since 2009. Allen said it's simply letting everybody do their own thing.

"The group of older guys that came back, the juniors and seniors that have been here, wanted to make sure everyone had their own thing," Allen said. "If you're relaxed, go out there and play relaxed. If you're one of those guys who gets pumped and intense, do that. We didn't want to force anything on anybody. Everybody has their own personality and own methods to doing everything. We're letting them do that.

"We wanted everyone to feel comfortable playing with everybody, and they have done a great job. You see Chris Ellis go out there, and he's a very relaxed, chill kind of person, but when he's out there, he's going about his business and he gets the job done."

With no classes and no midweek games, it's been a balancing act for coaches and players to prepare for the regional, from the bracket reveal on Monday, through the week of practice, to the regional opener on Friday.

"During the season, we get off-days and we're playing every other day, so we're not used to coming out here and practicing every day," Allen said. "Our coaching staff has done a great job helping us get the method behind everything. We're not out here for two-three hours every day. Sometimes, we just hit in the cage to stay sharp.

"Everybody's fired up and ready to go. In years past, we have been a little worn down and tired. Everybody is ready to go and excited for the opportunity."

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