CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco approached his hitters calmly and with purpose in practices leading up to today’s Charlottesville Regional.
Except for a 10-run outburst against Auburn – four of which were unearned – the Rebels scored six runs in three SEC tournament games.
The Rebels are hitting .287, lowest in the regional, and have been shut out three times since April 16.
“He was very laid-back, especially with the hitters in our rounds. He had very specific things he wanted us to work on. He was very straight and to the point,” said Matt Smith, the team’s leading hitter at .344.
On Monday, Bianco pledged intensity at practice, focusing on trying to get his hitters in advantage counts.
“Practices weren’t intense and brutal, but everything he (Bianco) did had a purpose. He made it very clear to us what he wanted, and if you messed up he corrected you real quick,” Smith said.
Some players think getting away from home for a regional can help them turn things around. Ole Miss has never advanced to a super regional from a road regional. The Rebels had hosted regionals in five of the previous six years, advancing four times.
“It helps get our mind away from everything, get away from the criticism, stuff like that,” center fielder Tim Ferguson said. “Like I said a couple of weeks ago, it doesn’t matter what our offense has done, if we come up here and put up some hits and runs, that’s what people will remember.”
The significant sixth
– Ole Miss is 33-4 in games in which it leads after sixth innings, 5-18 in games in which it trails or is tied after the sixth. After eight innings, the Rebels are 34-0 when leading, 3-21 when trailing or tied.
– While Ole Miss players talked Monday about the possibility of revenge, Virginia players downplayed the idea of facing a team they defeated to advance to the College World Series last year.
“At this point you have to play good teams to move on. The fact that Ole Miss is in our bracket doesn’t really matter,” outfielder Dan Grovatt said. “We’re not surprised they’re here. They’re a good team.”
Virginia has hosted NCAA regionals in 2004, 2006 and 2007 but has never advanced from a home regional.
It’s a history the current players are aware of, even if they didn’t have a hand in it.
“We’re very excited to have a regional at home and about what’s in front of us. That’s what our focus is,” Grovatt said.
– Virginia had pretty good offensive numbers last year, but with a deep and experienced lineup – All but one of the probable starters played at Ole Miss in the super regional last year – the numbers have gone up in almost every category.
The Cavaliers have increased in batting average (.333), runs (.477), home runs (55) and RBIs (440).
“We have everybody back, and wer’e playing with confidence. That’s a huge advantage,” said second baseman Phil Gosselin, who is hitting .379 and is six hits away from a school-record 94.
Virginia leads the ACC in pitching and batting and placed a school-record seven players on the All-ACC team.
UV position players have played in 119 NCAA tournament games, and four pitchers have combined to throw in 20 games.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal