djr-2021-06-07-sport-usm-bianco-twp1

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco has led his Rebels to the super regionals for the seventh time. They have advanced to the College World Series once

OXFORD

These are interesting days for Ole Miss baseball.

Not only are the Rebels back in a super regional, but they might have to fight off LSU next week to keep their baseball coach who has won 900-plus games.

Or Ole Miss will have to decide how hard it wants to fight.

Mike Bianco and the Rebels face No. 5 seed Arizona in Tucson, starting on Friday night.

If they win the super, it will be an upset that would send Bianco to Omaha for a second time. Some would say “only” a second time.

And if they win, it would be one more talking point for those around the LSU program who wish to see Bianco back at his alma mater.

Bianco’s name is one among several LSU baseball observers say has gained traction. It’s speculation.

If the Rebels do not advance, Bianco will have lost a super regional six times in seven attempts.

That record is an uncomfortable wedgie for some fans who believe change would be good for Ole Miss baseball.

In recent years Ole Miss athletics director Keith Carter has mentioned the need to examine the reason for shortcomings in postseason.

Bianco’s 38-45 record against rival Mississippi State and State’s multiple trips to Omaha under three different head coaches, one as an interim coach, are factors in this discussion.

But here again is Bianco in the Sweet 16 of his sport, in it for the seventh time.

He’s coached through an unusual number of injuries to key players who have been lost for key stretches or had seasons ended.

Maybe a couple of Tim Elko at-bats would have been the difference in games during the Arkansas, Mississippi State or LSU series.

Surely Gunnar Hoglund at full strength would have pitched Ole Miss to a win in the series opener at Texas A&M.

Everybody has injuries. Players and coaches love to say “next man up,” and that might work if the injury is to a .247 hitter or a pitcher with a 5-plus ERA.

This Ole Miss team absorbed far more significant injuries and continued to win.

Injuries don’t excuse results, but they do offer explanations for why results might look different.

A couple of wins in those series, and Ole Miss is perhaps the SEC champion and certainly a national seed.

Even that type of regular season resume would not guarantee a trip to Omaha. Ole Miss fans have seen that resume make a disappointing exit before.

Truthfully, there are no guarantees.

Bianco detractors make compelling points when they highlight the school’s commitment to baseball through salaries and facilities.

Ole Miss baseball under Bianco gained quickly and has maintained a national profile.

Because of that an open Ole Miss job would be attractive to established, sitting head coaches. The right choice might get the Rebels to Omaha or might not. There are no guarantees.

The Bianco postseason discussion could rise up again next week this time with the added twist of the LSU drama.

Interesting times indeed.

Parrish Alford covers Ole Miss for The Daily Journal. Find more in the Facebook Group ‘Ole Miss Discussion w/Parrish Alford.’

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