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On the transition as new hitting coach:

The transition has been really good. The coaching staff has made it a lot easier on me than what it could be. It's definitely been a whirlwind.

On what he knew about Ole Miss before taking the job:

I definitely had a lot of respect from afar for Coach Bianco and his program. I knew more than I thought I would because Ben Fleming, the strength and conditioning coach, was with me at Kansas State and we overlapped by a year for the 2013 season, and I kept in touch with him, so it was nice to know him through the process. Mike Bianco's work speaks for itself with 14 years and what he's done, continuing to build and getting to Omaha last year. I got to see them play quite a few times. They were a lot of fun to watch and played with a blue-collar mentality and a chip on their shoulder, and that's something I want to be a part of.

On what he looks to add and what he brings from his previous coaching experience:

It's a good fit because I pride myself on the mentality part of coaching. I want a bunch of guys who are going to blue collar and play with a chip on their shoulder, really play the game and outwork their opponent. I pride myself on that as a coach, and I hope our offense is going to pride themselves on that as well. I bring that dynamic to the staff. We have a bunch of good players and a bunch of good recruits, and I feel really good about where the program is right now.

On the reception on the road from fans and recruits:

Things are different when you put the script "Ole Miss" across your chest. That's no disrespect to Kansas State. I was in Atlanta last week recruiting, and I had to call back to the office and ask Andrew Case, our director of operations, what Hotty Toddy meant because I got six or eight Hotty Toddy's the first day I had the shirt on. To be honest, I wasn't sure what they were saying, if they cursing at me, or they were happy, or what they were, so I had to get an education on that. The response has been unbelievable. It's been overwhelmingly positive. People have been very supportive around town for the little bit that I have been here. It's really exciting to get going. It's going to be a great experience for my wife and I.

On summer workouts and talking to current players about the upcoming season:

I have talked to them quite a bit. I have been able to reach out to quite a few of our position players, especially the older guys. The coaching staff and the returning players are really excited about hopefully taking that next step. We want to be the last team standing in Omaha, not one of the last four teams. That's our goal, and that's the goal for a lot of teams, especially in this league. It's a dogfight, and you can't get to that goal without doing your job in the summer and fall. It's an exciting time, and the confidence is at an all-time high, probably, for his program, and that can be attributed to last year's team.

On what's needed to take Ole Miss to the next level:

We're on the right track. We're in a very good spot. It goes back to recruiting and getting the most talented players that you can find. But more so than the talent part of it, the best teams are the teams who can match the talent part of it with guys who are willing to give up a little something of themselves for something greater. That's why it was fun to watch Ole Miss baseball from afar because you could tell it was team and those guys loved playing with one another. If we can keep on that track, the sky is the limit, not only for this team this year, but the program and the future.

On being a former catcher on staff with two other former catchers in Mike Bianco and Carl Lafferty:

When you're a catcher, you're at the only position on the field, where everyone is looking to you. That's important. You're supposed to be a leader. I was not an elite baseball player. I was a pretty average player, and that's OK. One of the good things about that was I had to work pretty hard for everything I got and that helped me in my coaching career. They would say the same thing about being a former catcher. If you look around at the managers in the major leagues and minor leagues, there are a lot of former catchers because of the responsibility placed on that position.

On his younger brother, Jeff, and what he has learned from him and his major league baseball experience:

He's my best friend and we talk a couple of times a week. He had a whole different experience than what I did as an average player. He saw the other end of the spectrum. We talk often and he has a perspective of the Stephen Head's and Seth Smith's of the world, those types of people. He had an unbelievable college career, and he was an All-American and a high draft pick, and he was fortunate and blessed enough to play in the big leagues for parts of four seasons. He provides some valuable advice from his experience, but more than anything, he's really excited that I have this opportunity.

On his relationship and previous work experience with Ben Fleming:

It's important for me in the transition because I can bounce a lot off of him. The one year we worked together, we had a pretty special year at Kansas State and made it to the Super Regional and had the best year in school history. I trust his opinion. He's relentless in the way he works with kids. Coach Bianco really values him and what he does. It's good to have some familiarity with someone in this program getting here. I can't help but have a good relationship with Carl Lafferty. It didn't take long to build that because we were the two guys out on the road and recruiting.

On recruiting and how Carl Lafferty has helped in the transition:

It's a tough transition when you go from one part of the country to another part of the country and trying to land on your feet and hit the ground running. What's made it an easy transition is Carl. He's very gifted on the road. He has an unbelievable ability to know players and know everything about them. He knows who they are, who they play for, and where they're from. When you have someone as gifted as Carl is from a recruiting standpoint, it makes the transition a lot easier, that's for sure.

On the plan for the rest of the summer and preparation for fall practice:

The important thing, as we move forward before school starts, is to build relationships with players. That's what I believe most of coaching is. If I can start to build relationships and get these guys to trust me and what I'm all about and help them understand that I'm willing to work with them, everything will take off from there. I'm confident that will happen. Outside of recruiting, which is the life blood of the program, I want to build relationships with our current players and hit the ground running once school starts in late August.

On what fans should expect from the offense:

We want be aggressive in a lot of different ways. It can be driving the ball out of the yard, driving the ball in the gaps and stealing bases. I want to be really sound in every aspect of our offense, whether that's the ability to hit and run, steal bases and get down bunts. We want to hit the ball in the gaps because if you can do that, balls will go out of the yard and you will be able to do some things offensively. We're going to be uptempo and really aggressive and take the fight to the other team from the offensive side of things.

On the new ball and how it changes the game:

I don't know if it will change my philosophy as a hitting coach, but it will change the game. I trust what the NCAA is doing and there needed to be a change. I think the new ball is going to make a difference. Hopefully, in our ballpark, it makes the difference with a lot more beer showers for our team.

Toughness has been a mantra for Ole Miss baseball from day one, and it shined through once again Saturday, as the Rebels erased an early 4-0 deficit to clinch the weekend series against Arkansas.

Arkansas strung together six straight singles to take a 4-0 lead in the first, but Ole Miss answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning. From there, Christian Trent and the bullpen put up eight straight zeroes, as the Rebels came back to win by a score of 7-4.

"We were being aggressive and getting some good swings off," said Will Allen, who went 3-for-4 for the game. "That's huge after their four-run first to come back and put three runs up. It put us in a good position for the rest of the game. It took some of that momentum that they had, and we took it into our dugout and kept it for the most part of the game."

After the first inning, Trent worked a perfect second, fourth and fifth innings, as he allowed just three base runners the rest of the game. He left in the sixth, having allowed four runs -- all earned -- on nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts.

"In the first inning, when you look at what they did offensively, they square up some ball, but a couple of balls found holes," assistant coach Carl Lafferty said. "The thing that I was proud of Christian about is, to really mature in this league and be a quality starter, you're going to have innings like that, where it doesn't go your way. The difference for guys who are really elite in this league, they are the ones who can come up and do what Christian did and put up four more zeroes and keep us in the game and allow our offense to answer, which it has done all year."

"They were hitting everything I was throwing," said Trent of the first inning. "I gave up a couple of hits that were bad pitches, but really, they came out swinging. I was throwing pretty decent pitches, and they were just hitting them. I had to finish the game like I did and not let them score any more runs."

Ole Miss took the lead in the fourth behind five straight singles, including bunt singles by Errol Robinson, Preston Overbey and Braxton Lee. J.B. Woodman delivered the big hit of the inning with an RBI single up the middle, and heads-up base running allowed Robinson to score a second run on the play.

The Rebels added another run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly from Austion Bousfield, and then Sikes Orvis hit a solo shot in the fifth, his team-leading 12th home run of the season, to extend the lead to 7-4. On the mound, Scott Weathersby, Wyatt Short and Josh Laxer closed things out, as they combined to allow three hits with one walk and three strikeouts in four scoreless innings of relief.

"It's been a mantra this whole year," Lafferty said. "They don't flinch. They keep doing what they're doing and stick with the game plan. It's like, 'Let's just play.' We feel like we can score runs, we feel like we have a pitching staff that can hold them down. It was early in the ball game, but for the offense to come back and answer back in the bottom of the first, that's huge, especially for Christian and the rest of the pitching staff. We never feel like we are out of a game, and certainly that was the case today."

With the win, Ole Miss maintains sole possession of first place in the SEC Western Division with a 15-8 SEC record, 1.5 games ahead of LSU (13-9-1) and 2 games ahead of Alabama (13-10). Florida remains in first place in the SEC overall standings with a 17-6 SEC record.

"We urged our team that you can't scoreboard watch," Lafferty said. "You can't worry about what other teams are doing and who's playing and who's losing. You have to control your own destiny. We don't know if tomorrow is going to be the game that wins us the Southeastern Conference, so the focus is the same."


 

Another Quality Start For Smith

Behind Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers, sophomore right-hander Sam Smith has quietly put together a stellar season in his own right. The regular third starter in the weekend rotation, the Lake Charles, La., native is 3-0 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.


"I have always thought I had the potential to go out there and pitch in the SEC," Smith said. "That's why I came here. I just hadn't showed it yet. I think I have done that."


Smith took a no-decision in Wednesday's 4-1 loss to Arkansas, but he continued his success on the mound, giving up just one run on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts in six innings. In the third, he retired three batters in order after back-to-back singles to start the inning, then pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth.


"My defense helped me out a lot," Smith said. "Andrew Mistone made some really good plays. It helped a lot I was able to fill up the zone with all my pitches. I got my slider in the second or third inning. That was a good pitch for me. I was able to locate that well. I was able to keep them off balance, and that was big for me."


His six innings of work tied a career high, most recently against Mississippi State, in which he picked up his third win of the season. He gave up three runs -- one earned -- on eight hits with two strikeouts, as Ole Miss won 10-8.


"I was getting pretty tired, but I was still able to throw all my pitches for strikes," Smith said of pitching six innings. "I think as long as I could do that, I was fine. I felt OK."


Over his last seven starts, dating back to April 14 against Alabama, Smith has allowed just 10 runs, eight of which were earned, in 35 innings.


"Coach (Carl) Lafferty has worked a lot with me in the bullpen," Smith said. "We have been working on a lot of things. My defense has really what has given me the most confidence. I'm not scared to go after people and let them hit the ball because they have made some great plays for me."


Smith said he feels like he has been pitching about the same, just doing a better job throwing pitches for strikes and keeping the ball down. He also credited Wahl and Mayers, and their approach on the mound. 


"Those guys compete harder than anyone I have ever seen," Smith said of Wahl and Mayers. "I try to model my competitiveness after them. They're fun to watch. I think a lot of what I need to work on was runners in scoring position, two outs and making big pitches to get out of the inning. I think I have been doing a better of job of that."


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