By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Tanner Mathis wants his younger Ole Miss teammates to “soak up” the disappointment of two losses to William & Mary.
His coach wants those younger players to reacquire some mental toughness he thought they showed earlier in the year.
The Rebels’ season ended in the Raleigh Regional. A much-anticipated pitching duel between Ole Miss’ Bobby Wahl and N.C. State left-hander Carlos Rodon never materialized, because the Rebels were dropped into the loser’s bracket by the No. 2 team from the Colonial Athletic Association.
“It seems like such a long time ago, but we were 21-2. We were really good at one time. We just couldn’t get that feeling back,” Bianco said. “Getting that big hit has to do with confidence and feeling good about yourself that you’re going to do those types of things.”
That missing edge kept the Rebels from getting on a hot streak and feeling off a number of consecutive wins over the back half of the season the way they did at the start.
“The margin for error is so small, and mentally it can get to you a little bit. I think that’s what happened to this team,” Bianco said.
Ole Miss ended the season 38-23. It was the 11th NCAA trip in 13 seasons under Bianco.
Athletics director Ross Bjork says he will meet with Bianco “soon” and discuss the future with the school’s winningest coach. He has one year remaining on his contract and makes more than $600,000 annually through salary and other sources.
The experience of playing in the regional will help prepare younger players for next year, Mathis said.
“I just want them to soak it all in and remember this feeling next year when they’re playing in a regional and super regional in Oxford,” Mathis said.
This year’s sophomores gained the same type of experience last year, more of it in fact, as the Rebels advanced to the championship game of the College Station Regional.
NCAA tournament experience was a component for this team Bianco touted minutes after the selection show aired on ESPNU.
At crunch time in the regional that experience didn’t show up.
Bianco said the Rebels were tentative in the opening-round loss to William & Mary and also lacked the makeup to finish off Binghamton after a four-run eighth inning gave them what appeared to be a comfortable lead.
“I saw certain at-bats that weren’t characteristic of certain guys. I thought defensively when it was time to win we didn’t play well at the end. We walked a few guys and made it more difficult than it had to be,” Bianco said.
The 2013 Rebels got big production from All-SEC and All-American catcher Stuart Turner throughout the season but not much else from other member of a signing class that lost three players to the draft, one for grades and another for personal reasons.
The Major League draft will begin Thursday, and Bianco believes the class doesn’t have first-round talent that could cause it to be ravaged by the pros.
“It’s probably got that next tier,” he said.
That will be enough to cause nervous moments in the days ahead.
“We’ve got to continue to work hard, we’ve got to continue to recruit and get better, more talented,” Bianco said.