By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
OXFORD – After being around a high level of baseball all his life with his father, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, Michael Bianco has to have picked up some knowledge of the game along the way.
The younger Bianco proved he has Friday night. His run scoring single in the fifth inning of a scoreless contest helped Oxford break through in an eventual 5-1 victory over West Point.
But it was the situation of the hit that proved Bianco’s baseball smarts. Hunter Roth led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk.
Bianco then stepped in the box and, showing bunt, caused Green Wave pitcher Leroy Calvert to deliver the first pitch of the at bat without a pause for a balk, advancing courtesy runner Noland Parham to second.
Two pitches later, Bianco picked up on West Point’s attempt at running the wheel play, with both corners charging for a bunt attempt and the shortstop covering third base, and made them pay.
The sophomore faked a bunt then hit a dribbler to where the shortstop normally plays that turned into an RBI single for Oxford’s first run.
“It was something they ran Tuesday night,” Oxford coach Chris Baughman said. “I told (Bianco) at the plate, ‘If you see both corners charge and the middle infield splits I want you to slash’
“It was wide open and he’s a smart enough baseball player to see it part like Moses parted the Red Sea.”
Oxford (13-8, 3-3) took sole possession of Division 2-5A with the win, while the Green Wave (9-10, 2-4) stand tied with Saltillo for the third and final playoff spot with three division games remaining.
“In hind sight you can go back and say, ‘I shouldn’t have done that,’” said West Point coach Buddy Wyers. “But at the same time, I just knew they was going to bunt him over in that situation.”
After Bianco scored on a wild pitch to put Oxford up 2-0, the Green Wave cut their deficit in half in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Will Harrell.
The Chargers squashed any West Point comeback efforts in their half of the sixth, scoring three runs off Calvert (2-3). An RBI single by Parker Adamson, a sacrifice fly by Luke Gibbs, and a bases loaded walk by Roth provided the damage.
Roth (4-1), a sophomore, allowed three hits in a complete game win for Oxford in his first start in over a month due to an injury.