Return trips to Omaha will come for Rebels
If there is any one thing to take away from the last month of baseball it’s that the Rebels know what it takes to make it to Omaha, Neb.
Sure, next year’s team will look different. Chris Ellis, the Rebels’ Friday night starter in 2014, won’t likely return. He was drafted in the third round, too high of a pick to turn down the money the Angels can give him. That’s understandable.
Center fielder Auston Bousfield is in the same position. He, too, was drafted high and when you have leverage, that card is usually played.
Losing players each year happens. That’s a part of college baseball, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone when the Rebels have some different names on the lineup card next February.
A return trip to the CWS doesn’t always revolve around players as much as it does mindset and toughness. Yes, talent is needed to win games and garner championships, but there is so much more to it than that. Ole Miss had to overcome a metaphorical hurdle in order to reach its ultimate goal and now that the program has, don’t be surprised to see a trip, or two, in the coming seasons.
Vanderbilt and Virginia matched up against each other in this week’s CWS Championship series. It was the first time the two schools ever competed for a national championship in baseball, but it wasn’t the first time the programs had been to Omaha under its current head coaches.
The Commodores made it to the CWS under Tim Corbin back in 2011, while Virginia’s Brian O’Connor has now been three times in six years after making it for the first time in 2009.
Both of those programs have had a bevy of talented players and each year, the programs have regrouped, reloaded and fired away.
Ole Miss has done that under coach Mike Bianco, but the bullets coming out of the gun in the future are going to be different. The Rebels have been as successful and talented as any program in the SEC since Bianco arrived in Oxford back in 2000. The Rebels have been close to the CWS a handful of times only to have fallen short. We all know that, and I’m sure every Ole Miss fan has wondered where the Rebels would be right now if they could have beaten Texas just one more game in 2005.
My thought has always revolved around a national title for the program. And now that the barrier of getting to Omaha is down, that’s a very realistic possibility. It’s happened to other teams, other programs in the same way.
Senior Austin Anderson was unable to win a national title this year, but he will be cheering for the program he helped get over the hump in the future. He, and several other seniors like Will Allen, helped set the standard that other teams will try and live up to in the future, one that is as bright as it has ever been.
“The last time we were here in Omaha was 42 years, so I think it’s one of those things that it takes just one time to show the recruits that are coming in, or the younger guys, what it takes to get here,” Anderson said. “As long as they stick to the process and buy into the program, I’m sure they will get back. Probably next year, if not in the future. They’re definitely going to be solid and I’m sure they have another great freshman class coming in. Coach (Ben) Fleming did a great job with us this past fall of making us mentally tough for this successful season.”
The goal each season, since Bianco took over the program, has been to advance to the CWS and win a national title. Now, that goal can be tailored because the returners have a true understanding of the experience.
“It definitely helps give a little more confidence to the players that are coming back. This is a very talented group coming back. They have a lot of great recruits coming in and everyone saw that we had depth, guys coming off the bench throughout the season to help out,” Allen said. “The bullpen was tremendous. The starting pitchers, they’re going to have a lot of talent back and then being here once before, that’s going to help them out even more.”
Ole Miss is over the hump because they got tougher, because Bianco and his staff sat down and fine tuned everything they do. Instead of just doing it one way, or the way it has always been run, new methods were incorporated. And all the hard work and extra planning paid off, in a big way.
That’s a sign of real growth for a program that has consistently won, and for players that understand better than ever what hard work can get them.
John Davis is the Oxford Citizen sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @oxfordcitizenjd.