By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – I am a big “window of time” theorist when it comes to sports. You have a time frame where your program is peaking, and that’s your best shot to achieve at the highest possible level.
With four super regionals in five years, Ole Miss baseball had a window of time to make it to Omaha and did not.
A period of rebuilding was inevitable. It seems the program has remained in this window longer than many deem necessary, most importantly athletics director Ross Bjork.
When he met with Rebels coach Mike Bianco last week Bjork says he didn’t “mandate” that the program host a regional in 2014, but he emphasized the investments made on behalf of Ole Miss baseball and noted the statistical advantage of playing postseason games at home. Fourteen of 16 teams who reached the super regionals began their journey in their own park.
Ole Miss left some SEC wins on the table, or it would have been one of those 16 host teams. One reason the Rebels were close but not over the bar was talent.
Bianco points to success stories like Stuart Turner and Bobby Wahl. There just aren’t enough of those.
Wahl was outstanding this season, and pitching was indeed better, but when Turner hit almost 100 points below his average in two regional losses, no one had his back. Without Alex Yarbrough, Matt Snyder and Zack Kirksey this season the Rebels had 14 fewer home runs and 16 fewer doubles.
In trying to recruit their way back to better times, Bianco and his staff lost three of their top 2013 signees to the draft, one to grades and another to a personal issue.
Turner led the team in hitting at .374, but the next best newcomer was freshman Holtz Perdzock, who hit .265 as a pinch-hitter. No other newcomer hit as high as .215.
Last year’s recruiting losses were an aberration, and unless something unforeseen happens the Rebels should lose only juco lefty Cody Reed from this year’s class.
That would be a big help in righting the ship.
That ship needs to chart a course for the island of regional hosts.
Bjork may have made no mandates, but he clearly communicated his position by extending Bianco’s contract just one year.
Bianco has built the program and he is now charged with building it back.
Regional host status means not only a fun weekend in a state-of-the-art facility. It also means the Rebels as a 1 seed playing the 4 seed in the opening round, not in a second-day elimination game on the road.
The seeding provides the competitive advantage and makes the path to Omaha more attainable.
And that’s how the program that Mike Bianco built is judged.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs at InsideOleMissSports.com.