Some points concerning Rebels and Omaha
Last year, Mississippi State’s Hunter Renfroe won the C Spire Ferriss Trophy, and then the Bulldogs won an NCAA Regional, a Super Regional and made it all the way to the finals of the College World Series.
This year, Auston Bousfield of Ole Miss won the C Spire Ferriss Trophy, and then the Rebels won a Regional and a Super Regional and are headed to Omaha and the College World Series.
Seems we have a nice trend developing here.
Or maybe it’s just coincidence.
Regardless, today there are some points I would like to make.
• First off, congratulations to Mike Bianco, the Ole Miss coach whose 14th season with the Rebels will wind up in Omaha. The guy has won 555 games at Ole Miss, an average of right at 40 games a season. He has recruited well, coached well and always done it with class.
Frankly Bianco has had more talented teams than this one that didn’t make it to Omaha. I thought his 2005 team, which lost a scintillating Super Regional to Texas, was the best team in the country. Those Rebels just ran into a red-hot Texas team at the wrong time. As we know, the best team in baseball does not always win.
The Rebels also lost to Miami in 2006, Arizona State in ’07 and Virginia in ’09. The loss to Virginia was particularly galling. The Rebels won Game One, appeared to have Game Two in hand, let it slip away and then lost Game Three 5-1.
But here’s the point: Each time, and several others, Bianco handled crushing defeat with grace and dignity. He has endured barbs about Omaha from rivals, the media and even from his own fans. He earned last night and this trip to Omaha. Good for him.
• Point two: This Ole Miss team is good enough to win it all. They are balanced up and down the lineup. The pitching staff is deep. They can throw it, catch it and they can really, really run, which is especially important in the new and vast CWS ballpark.
Such balance! As I wrote at the time, Bousfield won the C Spire Ferriss Trophy, but several Rebels were legitimate contenders. Finalist Chris Ellis could have won it. Austin Anderson could have won it. Christian Trent could have won it. Will Allen could have won it. And there were more. This team has so much balance.
• Point three: It really is amazing that Mississippi SEC teams have advanced to the CWS in successive years because they recruit at such a disadvantage against so many of their opponents. What I mean is this: Many baseball programs take advantage of so-called Hope scholarships, which are state-funded and allow schools to recruit baseball players far above the 11.7 NCAA limit of baseball scholarships. Mississippi has no such Hope scholarship.
Now then, back to Bianco. His overall coaching record, including three seasons at McNeese State, is 655-391-1. His teams have won three SEC West championships, one overall SEC title, one SEC Tournament and have been to 12 NCAA Regionals and five Super Regionals.
It’s an amazing record, which will now have an exclamation point at the end: Omaha!
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