By John Davis
OMAHA, Neb. – A day away from baseball, after suffering a tough 2-1 loss to Virginia, was needed for the Ole Miss Rebels.
After a 45-minute practice at Creighton University on Monday morning, the Rebels headed to the zoo for downtime with family and friends.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco was still in the process of gathering data and information on Texas Tech Monday morning, but by the time the first pitch is thrown today at 2, he would know enough about the Red Raiders.
“I think in this type of tournament you handle it a little different than in a regional because everything is so close together. The first game is the most important so most of the time was spent there and I just spent time on Virginia,” said Bianco. “We did get to watch tape on them and there is enough time to get it done.”
One of the big topics following Sunday’s loss, and then again at practice, revolved around Aaron Greenwood pitching to Virginia’s top hitter, Mike Papi, in the ninth.
The Cavaliers’ first-round draft choice lifted a pitch into the outfield for a double, scoring the game-winning run. Some thought Bianco should have pitched around him, sending him to first base with two outs on the scoreboard.
Bianco said the thing he regrets wasn’t walking Papi to face Joe McCarthy, Virginia’s clean-up hitter, but not talking to Greenwood more on the mound during the inning.
“I thought Aaron pitched great and he was one pitch away from getting out of it. That was the choice. It wasn’t just pitch to Papi and go to McCarthy. With the base open, if you end up walking him, you’re OK. If you intentionally walk him, you’re more limited. I just thought we would pitch him tough and then go to McCarthy. I don’t think it was either or,” Bianco said. “That’s why Papi is a first rounder and a terrific player. I think it was just a situation where we got beat.”
Bianco said the key to the inning was walking the nine-hole hitter, Nate Irving, to start the ninth.
“It was worse to walk the first guy,” Bianco said. “We gave them too many opportunities …”
A loss in the opening game is far from ideal, but Bianco pointed out that it’s not impossible for the Rebels to make a run at winning their side of the bracket, and ultimately play for the national title. South Carolina and Oregon State, two recent winners, both lost the first game en route to winning the national title.
“It’s only a four-team bracket and it’s not like the battle uphill isn’t obtainable,” Bianco said. “And if you win, you move to Thursday and get another day off. I told the guys, ‘Let’s not worry about down the road and what could happen, let’s win Tuesday. Do that first.’”