Bench players make difference for Rebels

OMAHA, Neb. – Talent and toughness are two of the biggest reasons the Ole Miss Rebels advanced to the College World Series this season for the first time since 1972. A deep bench is the reason the Rebels were able to stay a little longer into the first week and do something no team has done since 1969: earn a win in the CWS.

Ole Miss fought out elimination Tuesday afternoon, earning a 2-1 win over Texas Tech, thanks to its role players out of the dugout.
Tupelo native John Gatlin had the game-winning hit, while Holt Perdzock came through with yet another clutch base hit and RBI.

A total of six players came off the bench for coach Mike Bianco, both turning in good defensive plays, timely hitting and solid base running. As good as Ole Miss’ regular lineup has been, the depth is something that may ultimately separate them from the rest of the teams remaining.

“It’s awesome, especially for a guy like Gatlin to come in. He’s a senior and we love him and we wouldn’t want to have anybody do what he did,” said Perdzock, who has driven in four runs at the most critical times in the postseason recently. “It was great for everybody. There is no better feeling. We’ve played games like this all year, we’re tough. We know how to win all kinds.”
Perdzock said earning the Rebels first win in Omaha since Richard Nixon was president took some weight off the shoulders of his teammates.

“We just got to keep doing what we do. I know I just try and stay calm, that’s about it,” Perdzock said. “I know my role; I do it about every game. I know in the eighth or ninth inning, I start to get loose because I know I’m going to get an at bat.”

What people don’t realize about some of the role players is what they do during the game. Bianco said Perdzock, specifically, is down in the bullpen, warming up pitchers. He then has to come back into the dugout in order to get ready for his time at the plate.

“There are teams that make different moves and one of the things is we have a few more guys on the bench because we only dress 11 pitchers. Most people dress at least 12 and some maybe a few more. We had a few options. We’ve got guys we can put in to run like Cameron Dishon and certainly right-handed and left-handed, bat options,” Bianco said. “It just depends on the situation, but we’ve done things like we did today all year long. I think those guys are comfortable.

“I know I’ve never had a guy like Holt Perdzock. We’ve had guys we’ve put in, but I’ve never had a guy that basically hits .300 off the bench,” Bianco continued. “He’s had what, one start the whole season? How many guys can pitch hit and, to boot, he’s in the bullpen? He’s catching every day, and we call him back down and he takes of his gear and he hits. He’s done a terrific job in that role.”

Bianco said it was neat for him to see Gatlin, who lost his grandmother on Monday, come through with the game-winning hit, off the bench, keeping the Rebels in Omaha at least through Thursday.

“He’s a great representative of the university and it’s nice to see when good things happen to good people. It was great to see him get a base hit to win it,” Bianco said. “You come here to win, not just be here for a couple of days. I think our guys want to win, not just a game, so I think it’s significant when you are here all these years, ’72 and ’69. In this ballpark, where everything, every pitch, is amplified, you can feel it. Runs are a such a premium here and to get one in the win column here in Omaha, I think, is huge.”

Gatlin, who was hitting under .130 on the year, agreed it was special to have so many bench players contribute to the win.

“When the game is on the line, we’re each called upon in different situations, and we’re prepared for it, to get the job done,” Gatlin said. “That just goes back to what we’ve done all year. We’ve done it all through the season, one through 27 contribute, in some form or fashion. Coach Bianco does a great job, late in the game, when the situation comes, for you to be ready. You get your legs loose so you’re ready to go. We’re expected to get it done and we’ve been pretty successful at it.”

john.davis@journalinc.comTwitter:@oxfordcitizenjd



About John Davis

Eighteen years in the business. Dedicated to providing the best local content for sports. Oxford, Lafayette, Ole Miss, youth sports, outdoors and the things nobody else wants to cover.