FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Much has been made about the familiarity of the Ole Miss and Arkansas players.
After all, when the Fayetteville Super Regional is complete these teams will have faced one another at least seven times, perhaps eight.
That’s a lot of familiarity for the players – “We know their middle names by now,” Rebels first baseman Cole Zabowski said – but there’s even more for the coaches.
A lot more.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco is in his 19th season with the Rebels, Dave Van Horn in his 17th with the Razorbacks.
Will knowing middle names matter this weekend? Bianco doesn’t think so.
“You can out-think yourself a little bit. We try to go with what’s worked before, but the thing is it’s not like football, and I think we get too much into that like do you run the power sweep too many times?” Bianco said.
Baseball is a different beast, Bianco said, as so much is determined on the pitching mound where there’s a different starter every game.
“We actually threw four different guys against him in five games. It’s not like they’ve seen the same pitcher. We’re a little different and they’re a little different,” Bianco said.
Van Horn isn’t so quick to disregard tendencies in baseball.
“We’re worried about tendencies and signs and different things. You know, sometimes they switch it up a little bit and change an indicator or whatever the case may be. But, it really just boils down to making pitches and fielding and hitting. Whoever plays the best will win the series,” he said.
Bianco is 37-29 in his career against Arkansas.
As the young coach in the SEC he was 1-5 in two seasons against former Arkansas coach Norm DeBriyn who coached the Razorbacks for 33 years.
Bianco is 36-24 against Arkansas with Van Horn as coach including 10 wins in the last 14 meetings.
Both coaches cut their teeth at Southland Conference schools in Louisiana but missed competing against one another at that level.
Van Horn coached at Northwestern State in Natchitoches from 1995-1997 before taking the Nebraska job in 1998.
Bianco coached McNeese State from 1998-2000 before taking the Ole Miss job in 2001.
They express a healthy respect for one another.
“They’re always good. He’s an outstanding coach,” Van Horn said. “He works with pitchers and catchers and oversees everything, so I have a lot of respect for him and their whole program.”
“The success, the winning, Omaha, last year literally an out from winning the national championship. When you think of one of the great programs in the country you think about Arkansas. He’s done a wonderful job,” Bianco said.