Rebels had no doubt about College World Series
There wasn’t any doubt in Errol Robinson’s mind that his Ole Miss Rebels would win Game 3 of the Lafayette (Louisiana) Super Regional and advance to the College World Series Monday night.
Robinson, and the rest of the freshmen class, have been confident on what this team could achieve all season long.
And why shouldn’t they have been? They had never been through the other close calls in the super regionals. They were never part of teams that went on the road and failed to advance.
The sky has always been reachable in Robinson’s eyes. Why? The bond this team has with one another. The toughness, the grit, the passion, the never-quit attitude. All of it and more is why the Rebels are just a few more wins from playing for a CWS title.
“We’ve been through everything. We’ve been through so much adversity. Our strength coach has put us through so much and we’ve built the greatest toughness on this team,” Robinson said moments after the Rebels broke as a team and started celebrating on the field. “It showed in this final game after losing that first game on Saturday and bouncing back and getting that Sunday win and getting this trip to Omaha.”
Prior to Sunday’s game, the one the Rebels had to win to stay alive, ESPN’s crew caught the team playing tag with each other in the outfield. It was a positive sign, that they were feeling loose after a setback the night before. Robinson could feel the positive energy, and how others felt, coming to the game Monday. It was all positive and it reinforced the message of finish.
“There really was a vibe in the hotel and the locker room and on the bus. We just knew were going to get it done. I don’t know how else to say it,” Robinson said. “We have a great freshman class, a great class and I’m very excited about the days ahead.”
No real names
It’s strange to write that Ole Miss was picked to finish sixth out of seven teams in the SEC West before the year started, but it’s true. Preseason picks are based on how a team finishes the year prior, and with no Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers returning to the starting lineup, it’s understandable how and why the Rebels were selected at that spot.
“You see it with other programs every single year, how things like this happen. We saw these guys from the fall and we understand that there were no real names on the team. There was no Bobby Wahl, no Mike Mayers, no Stuart Turner, but collectively, when you look out on the field, there are nine draft picks,” said former Ole Miss standout Stephen Head. “There are a lot of good players out there on the field and I think that’s the thing people didn’t know at the beginning of the year. There were a lot of unknowns.”
Preseason picks don’t play the game, however, and they sure don’t put in all the hard work in the weight room and conditioning. That role is reserved for the players, and Head said that this team worked, once they were properly motivated.
“We really challenged these guys like we’ve never challenged teams before. They didn’t like it at first. There was a lot of complaining,” Head said. “Halfway through the SEC season, I think people really started to realize that this team was special and that we could do some special stuff. I think once they saw how it was paying off, winning close games, they just bought in and this is their reward.”
Head was a member of the 2005 Ole Miss team, the national seed squad that hosted Texas in Oxford for the super regionals, that seemed destined to head to Omaha. That didn’t happen, but the feeling to get there now is just as sweet, he said.
“I remember being on the DL in Triple A and seeing Matt Smith hit the walk-off home run against Virginia and in the locker room just being ‘Finally, Coach Bianco has one. There is no way they are going to lose after getting a walk-off home run,’” Head said. “Then to go through the next two days and find out they didn’t win was just heartbreaking even when I wasn’t with the program. To come back and to watch what this team did and see what Coach (Mike) Bianco, Coach (Cliff) Godwin, Coach (Carl) Lafferty did with this team, it’s just amazing, really.”
John Davis is the Oxford Citizen sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @oxfordcitizenjd.