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Red-hot Ole Miss ready to make a run at SEC title

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
April 1, 2004
OXFORD Ole Miss has gotten off to a strong start as the Rebels try to make their diamond dreams come true.
Ole Miss head baseball coach Mike Bianco, who won 111 games and reached two NCAA regionals in his first three years with the Rebels, laid out a challenge for his team at the start of the 2004 season.
The Ole Miss squad is well on its way to fulfilling its coach's dreams.
The Rebels are in the top 10 in three different college baseball polls nearly midway through their regular-season schedule. Ole Miss is No. 4 in the Collegiate Baseball Top 30, No. 7 in Sports Weekly/ESPN College Baseball Coaches poll and No. 8 in the Baseball America Top 25.
The Rebels are 22-3 overall record after Wednesday's win over Southeastern Louisiana, and are in first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a 5-1 record. LSU is in second with a 4-2 mark.
Bianco said he is happy with how his fourth season as the Rebels skipper has started, but is also aware that the season is a marathon and not a sprint.
The race to the finish of the college baseball season is long, but Ole Miss appears to have the horses it needs to finish strong.
The Rebels are headlined by all-everything Stephen Head, who was the SEC Freshman of the Year last season.
Head, who had a team-high .337 batting average and 44 RBIs in 2003, has picked up were he left off. The sophomore has driven in a team-high 38 RBIs, and he is batting .415.
Head has also segued nicely into his more prominent role in the pitching staff. The left-hander was mainly a closer last year, saving 13 games and carrying a 1.40 ERA, but also made four starts and completed two of them.
Head has made four starts this year and has posted a 3-0 record. He is used primarily as a Sunday starter when he doesn't pitch in relief on Friday and Saturday.
Ole Miss has also seen resurgence from the 2002 SEC Freshman Player of the Year, outfielder Seth Smith.
The junior had struggled entering last weekend's series against SEC West foe Alabama.
Smith, who hit .366 over his first two seasons with the Rebels, was only hitting .280 entering the series with the Tide. He got back on track with three hits, including two home runs, and scored five runs to help Ole Miss take two of three games against Alabama.
Smith went 2-for-3 in the win over Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday.
With its two big guns firing strong again, Ole Miss now enters the heart of its conference schedule, and the team knows it only gets tougher from here.