Rebels must excel in consistency, not tactics, in super regional

June 10 – Back in a familiar position, Ole Miss baseball hopes for an unknown outcome.

There’s plenty of excitement for an all-Mississippi regional super as Ole Miss and Southern Miss meet in Hattiesburg, starting Saturday in the best-of-three for a trip to Omaha.

Hosting for the first time, the Golden Eagles are in a super regional for the first time in 13 years and only the second time in their history.

The Rebels have been here before – so much so that it’s become a major talking point for many fans when discussing head coach Mike Bianco.

If the rebels fail to push forward this issue will again be front and center.

The last five years have been arguably the Rebels’ best window of Bianco’s 22 seasons. They were a national seed for the second time, they qualified for three consecutive super regionals and, for the first time, they won a road regional.

Still, Bianco is 1-6 in super regionals, and the failure to reach the College World Series for more than one shining moment in 2014 is glaring.

Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter was acting in his role when he opted out of extending Bianco’s contract in 2019 after a regional super season that ended against Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Carter said then that he wanted to “look at what’s keeping us in the playoffs.”

Last year, Carter stood by Bianco and cited “personal factors” when interviewing Bianco for the vacancy at LSU.

Not everyone had so much patience for Bianco’s decision.

The Rebels’ effort to break through in Omaha this weekend will be tactically no different than any game this season.

Previous super-regional shortcomings haven’t been because “we don’t do enough bunts, we don’t do enough hit-and-runs or we need to throw more curveballs earlier,” Bianco said.

Knocking down No. 6 seed Miami and winning the Coral Gables Regional wasn’t magic dust that wasn’t already in place. Instead, the Rebels have found the hardest quality to achieve in track and field competition: consistency.

“If you ask most coaches, you’re in that position because you’ve done certain things really well. The question is, can you replicate that again this weekend?” Bianco said. “We lost our share of those weekends, it’s no secret, but it’s not because of anything strategic.”

Last year’s Rebels were better prepared for super regional success until Gunnar Hoglund – along with Doug Nikhazy one of the two dominant starting pitchers – injured his arm in May.

Southern Miss has a deeper pitching staff.

The best way for Ole Miss to curb the Omaha talk, at least temporarily, will be to hit those good Miss South arms all weekend long.

PARRISH ALFORD is the editor of college sports and columnist for the Daily Journal. Contact him at [email protected]

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