Tuesday, June 30, 2009

C'mon, C'mon listen to the money talk

You have to wonder how many other letters there are like this one (Page 1, Page 2). You certainly have to listen when one of your biggest, highest-profile donors has something to say, particularly when it involves the loss of $500k in donations to the athletic department. Some of the most telling statements include:
Numerous occasions of disagreement between Pete Boone and the coaches are well known across a majority of the fan base. Many of the items I view as petty and designed to harass.
The Chancellor (Khayat) has heard rampant criticism of Pete Boone from every corner of the State. In the face of all the known turmoil, the Chancellor gave Pete a four (4) year extension!
I cannot continue to support this mismanagement. I respectfully suggest you remove (my) pledge from your budgeting process.
Let me preface the rest of this post with this… I’m not a big Pete Boone fan. In all the dealings I had with him when I was in school, he came across as a smug jackass. His banker-engrained penny pinching ways have rubbed many a person the wrong way over the years. He’s made some questionable decisions (and non-decisions) throughout the years that have brought about a firestorm of message board threads and blogger posts.

But right now, in mid-2009, the Ole Miss athletic department is doing just fine, thanks. Outside of Florida and potentially LSU, there’s not a school in the entire SEC with as strong a money-sport coaching trio as Houston Nutt, Mike Bianco, and Andy Kennedy. The IPF is gorgeous and the new basketball facility will be top-notch as well. The new scoreboard at VHS looks great. The list goes on.

That said, it’ll be interesting to see how long Boone sticks around after Chancellor Jones takes over. Boone is a product of the Good Ol’ Boy Network so prevalent at Ole Miss at times... but then again Jones appears to be as well. While I feel Boone doesn’t get enough credit for the good he’s done recently, I don’t feel he’s the man to lead the athletic department where it is capable of going in the upcoming years.

Hopefully, the Chancellor Jones will – as Millette so eloquently put it – “possess the fortitude to correct this problem.” It remains to be seen whether Jones views Boone as a "problem" or he'll just settle for the status quo already in place.

Monday, June 29, 2009

'Rico and Pom tearing it up

It’s nice to be back in the blogosphere after a good bit of traveling and overwhelming work projects. I missed a good bit of pop culture news last week, but – as to be expected for late June – there’s just not much going on in college sports. Other than the new chancellor being announced (more on that in another post), the biggest news in Rebel Land these days is Terrico White and the upcoming U19 World Championships and Drew Pomeranz.

Even after being named SEC Freshman of the Year, White is not as well known across the country. Michael DeCourcy of The Sporting News feels all that could change () with his appearance on the national team, even dropping this gem about ‘Rico:
Terrico White is the best-kept secret in college basketball, and don't expect him to do anything to change that unless it involves points, rebounds and assists.
Jonathan Divony, president of Draft Express, was also there to watch the tryouts and came away impressed with White’s potential and athleticism. His analysis was very similar to mine a couple of months ago, where I voiced the same concerns regarding the high number of jumpers:
He relies far too heavily on his 3-point stroke considering how talented an athlete he is, as nearly 50% of his attempts this season came from beyond the arc. He doesn’t get to the free throw line very often and still needs to learn how to use his quickness and leaping ability to create better shots around the basket, as he often prefers to settle for contested fade-away jumpers.
Overall, the analysis is positive though, closing with:
White is a guy to keep under the radar for now, but if he puts the work in and is able to become a smarter and more complete all-around player, he could really emerge as an interesting prospect down the road.
Meanwhile, Drew Pomeranz mowed down 10 Canadians in 4 IP and picked up the win for Team USA in the opening game for the team.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Get that man a Vegemite Sandwich

As expected, Terrico White made the US U-19 team that will compete in the World Championships in the basketball mecca of Auckland, New Zealand early next month. This is another nice notch in the belt loop for Terrico who will team with Chris Warren next year in one of the most formidable backcourt duos in the country.

With the football hype machine in full swing and another painful Super Regional for baseball, here's a little reminder of Terrico's ability...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shaun King is not very smart

By now, many of you have seen this clip from ESPN's tour of the 50 states in regards to college football, but it certainly merits attention from any college football fan. It is absolutely shameful that ESPN - the supposed "World Wide Leader in Sports" - allowed an apparently ignorant Shaun King to provide such stupid answers to John Saunder's questions regarding the rich history of college football in Mississippi.

First off, I have no issue with naming Walter Payton the greatest college player in state history. With the sheer amount of incredible individual talent to come through the state through the years, it's an endless argument, but it's easy to make a case for Payton. The issues come with the other "history" questions King fields.

Calling the 1999 mittippi tate bulldogs the best team in state history is absolutely comical at best. Behind the brilliant coaching strategy of Mr. Cutcliffe, the Rebels gave the Egg Bowl away that year. And while the 10-2 record and a top 15 finish is nice, the Rebels 2003 team finished 7-1 in the SEC and was a painful loss to LSU away from an 8-0 record. That team or certainly last year's Rebel team would have destroyed those '99 dogs.

ESPN didn't post the the segment where Saunders asked King about the "best coach in state history" question, which is probably for the best. Of all the football coaches in the history of Mississippi, Shaun King proclaimed Sylvester "goo goo g'joob" Croom as the greatest. He of the 21-38 (10-30 SEC) career record. He of the one winning season in 5 years. He of the "be good or be gone" mantra, despite the Urban Myer-esque arrest numbers during his tenure.

The man was an absolute fraud... a clown propped up by the local media fascinated with his skin color. Even the most loyal of bulldog faithful were happy to see him axed because he just flat out couldn't coach. Or recruit. Or conjugate verbs correctly. He was an embarrassment and left the program in as equally as bad a shape as he inherited it.

Despite all of those achievements, Shaun King proclaimed him the best coach in Mississippi's history. Not Johnny Vaught. Not Jeff Bower. Sylvester Croom.

John Saunders and Mike Lupica ruined The Sports Reporters with their personal agendas, so it's not surprising to see Saunders in on a stunt like this. Shaun King is new to the gig, so he was probably just doing what he was told. ESPN always had a fascination with Croom and this was just another way for them to sing his praises, which is not the easiest thing to do when you have a record like Croom's.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder

Hey everybody,

It's been a hectic week with business travel and a looming mega-project at work and more travel next week. It'll be the end of this month or early July before I can get back in a solid rhythm here. There's not much going on anyway these days, but there'll be plenty to talk about soon.

Some time next month, I'll roll out 5 reasons Ole Miss won't win the SEC West in football this season. The next week, I'll roll out the 5 reasons that the Rebels will claim their first Western Division title.

Until then, Hotty Toddy.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Mike Bianco: By the Numbers

After yet another frustrating loss in a Super Regional, there's a small but noisy faction of Rebel fans calling for the head of Mike Bianco on a platter. His Rebel clubs' postseason failures are being compared to the Bills and the Cubs, and, unfortuantely, both hold a certain degree of validity.

But you can't just dismiss what Bianco has accomplished in Oxford. When Don Kessinger took over the baseball program via his Good Ole Boy Network connections, he amassed a 185-153 (54.7%) record in 5 seasons. When Pat Harrison tried to build an SEC team out of California rejects, he put together a 116-107 (52%) record in 4 seasons. In 9 seasons, Mike Bianco is 365-203-1 (64.3%) and has actually moved ahead of Tom Swayze in winning percentage. He's taken a program that fans were apathetic towards (at best) and has turned it into a marketing machine for the university.

Only two SEC schools have won as consistently as the Rebels have in conference over the last 9 seasons. South Carolina and Ole Miss are the only schools in the SEC to be at .500 or better in conference play each of the last 7 seasons. Over Bianco's 9-year tenure, only LSU and South Carolina have compiled a better winning percentage in conference than Bianco's squads.

LSU: 156-110-3 (58.65%)
South Carolina: 154-115 (57.25%)
Ole Miss: 152-118 (56.30%)
Florida: 147-122-1 (54.65%)
Alabama: 145-124 (53.90%)
Georgia: 140-128-1 (52.24%)
Arkansas: 134-131 (50.57%)
Vanderbilt: 124-142 (46.62%)
Tennessee: 122-144 (45.86%)
msu: 119-144 (45.25%)
Auburn: 114-156 (42.22%)
Kentucky 97-170-1 (36.33%)

If you go look at only the last 5 seasons, only Alabama has won a higher percentage of their SEC games, and it's by just a fraction of a percentage point.

Alabama: 86-63 (57.72%)
Ole Miss: 86-64 (57.33%)
Florida: 81-69 (54.00%)
LSU: 81-67 (54.73%)
South Carolina: 80-70 (53.33%)
Vanderbilt: 78-70 (52.70%)
Arkansas: 77-71 (52.03%)
Georgia: 76-72 (51.35%)
Kentucky: 68-80 (45.95%)
Tennessee: 65-81 (44.52%)
msu: 58-87 (40.00%)
Auburn: 54-96 (36.00%)

All that's left for Bianco to do is get over the seemingly insurmountable hump of winning a second game in a Super Regional. His squads have shared the division title twice, won the SEC Tournament, and shared the overall SEC crown this year. I know everyone is frustrated with the repeated Super Regional failures, but you can't ignore what Bianco has meant to this program.

All that said, there's little to no reason for the Rebels to not have advanced to Omaha yet. While Bianco is an elite recruiter and ambassador for the university, flawed game day logic and decisions keep him (at least until now) from accurately being recognized as an elite coach. Whatever approach he takes in Super Regionals has not worked, then or now. Something needs to change - whether it's philosophy or assistant coaches or both - but not Bianco.

And to the ones calling for his head... who is he replaced with? Who has won with the consistency that Bianco has against the same level of competition? Some suggest former Bianco assistant Dan McDonnell, but there's no guarantee that he or anyone else brought in could match Bianco's wins.

So what does all this mean? It means that firing Bianco would set the program back, not move it forward. He has built a once moribund program into a consistent winner that has been on the precipice of greatness for several seasons now. If Evan Button doesn't shortarm that throw Saturday afternoon, this entire argument is moot. But that's the way baseball is. Bianco is going to get the Rebels to Omaha... it maybe 2010, maybe 2011, but he's won too consistently over an extended period of time to not catch a break. I just want him to do it in Oxford.

A (somewhat) level-headed look at Mike Bianco, Ole Miss baseball

As game 3 of the Oxford Super Regional came to a end yesterday afternoon, the floodgates opened on the message boards, text messages, and the blogosphere. I was as frustrated as anyone, but after a few Fat Tires, some yard work, and a good night’s sleep, I can pen my thoughts with a clear head, instead of one fresh from the heat of the moment.

Nothing said here is to cheapen what Virginia did this weekend or what they’ve accomplished all season. The Cavaliers played a very solid brand of baseball and gutted out two win-or-go-home games to punch their ticket to Omaha. They’re a very solid team top to bottom. This is more an indictment of the way the Rebels played. Certain things jump out at you after the series this weekend.

What was the painful aspect of the weekend was how poorly the Rebels fared executing mundane fundamentals. We struggled all weekend bunting guys over, making the easy play (7 errors?), hitting cut off men, turning double plays, stringing hits together, etc. Our poor execution coupled with UVA’s nearly flawless Saturday and Sunday performances equated to an easy series win for the ‘Hoos.

Here’s what I’ve come up with. Feel free to dispute, agree, ignore, or patronize…

There is no excuse for not winning this Super Regional

Against Texas in 2005, we said, “Oh it’s Texas, they always win and it’s our first Super Regional ever.” Against Miami in 2006, Miami rolled into town and won. We said, “Oh, it’s Miami, they always win.” Against Arizona State in Tempe in 2007, we said, “It’s Arizona State, they always win. Plus we’re on the road.” None of that applies to Virginia this year. The Cavaliers had never been to a Super Regional before this weekend. They start 7 freshmen/sophomores. They almost dropped baseball to a club team several years ago.

The only one of those four I can truly stomach is the ASU one, but given how we lost game 1 because Bianco ran Kline back out for the 9th, even that one’s tough to take. The Miami series in 2006 was inexcusable as well. That was a mediocre Hurricanes team that had no business winning Games 2 and 3 in Oxford that season.

Firing Mike Bianco is not the answer. At least not yet.

The Ole Miss baseball team has experience unparalleled success under Bianco’s direction. The late years of Don Kessinger’s tenure paired with Pat Harrison’s very existence left a very bad situation that Bianco has turned into one of the most successful regular season programs in the country. To dismiss that as something anyone could step in and emulate is foolish.

Yes,. the four super regional losses are tough to swallow, but, quite frankly, Miami is really the only clearly inferior team that we lost to. Above all the others, that's the Super Regional that the Bianco haters should point to. As great as the 2004 team was, Texas was clearly better, as was Arizona State. With Bittle on the shelf, it's easy to make the argument that UVA was a better team than Ole Miss was before the weekend series.

The problem lies in Bianco’s salary, by some accounts the highest in the SEC. Yearly failures on the 2nd biggest stage in college baseball should not be a characteristic of the highest paid coach in the league.

That said, there need to be changes, either in philosophy of existing coaches or in the actual assistants

The common thread in the 4 SR losses is they’ve been under Mike Bianco’s watch. The 4 Supers in 5 seasons is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but the growing grumblings of Bianco taking the Rebels as far as he can are starting to gain much more traction with another failure. Bianco’s teams are now 0-6 in home games that would send us to Omaha. Whatever approach he is taking to loosen guys up is obviously not working. Even this team – with all their antics and carefree attitude – played tight yesterday, even with an early lead.

Bianco’s typical stubbornness with starting pitchers cost us yesterday as he stuck with Nathan Baker far too long. Baker wasn’t pitching poorly, but his painfully slow delivery + UVA’s speed on the basepaths + Kyle Henson’s “arm” was a recipe for disaster. UVA’s starter was pulled early because he was struggling… Bianco should’ve taken the hint and pulled Baker as well.

The small ball he tried this season doesn’t work well unless the players are skilled at sacrifice bunting. It’s tougher than looks – keeping the head of the bat up, coming back at just the right time to deaden the ball, placing it just right – but practice makes perfect. Something needs to improve in that skill-set or the small ball just won’t work.

They say once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a trend. It’s hard to not feel that way watching another Oxford Super Regional go the way of the visitors. Next year’s Rebels will be another Top 10 quality team and will have a legitimate shot at another Super Regional. Will it finally be the year Bianco and his Rebels break through? Or will be just another disappointment for Rebel fans?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

It's like deja vu all over again

Oxford Super Regional Checklist:
_x_ Win Game 1 in dramatic fashion
_x_ Lose Game 2
_x_ Lose the coin toss so you're the visiting team in Game 3
___ Lose game 3, sit at home while winner goes to Omaha

Ah yes, the old familiar slow trudge out of a sporting event so ingrained into Ole Miss fans reared it ugly head today. For a second straight game, the Rebels played bad fundamental baseball - errors and a missed cut-off man - and now face a win-or-go-home game tomorrow. The game couldn't have started any better - the Rebs were up 2-0 before there UVA recorded its first out - but the bats went silent for too long after that, mustering only 1 run in the next 27 outs.

A few plays stand out to me today...

* Kyle Henson should have been waved home in the 6th inning. It's easy to say that now after we saw what the throw home looked like, but with the momentum we had going there - and David Phillips coming up in a potential double situation, you've got to take your chances there

* When Basham was subbed in for Henson for defensive purposes, why wasn't Ferguson put in for Power?

* Zach Miller could've scored on Kevin Mort's flyball in the 9th. UVA's leftfielder Shane Halley is righthanded and was sprinting in to make the catch on a line that was taking him directly at first base. Had Miller been tagging, he could've scored as Halley slowed down, angled himself towards the plate and made a throw.

Regardless of today's outcome, this series should be tied 1-1, just with a Cavalier win yesterday and a Rebel win today. Each team's 2nd baseman has made a costly error at a critical time of the game to open the door for the other team. UVA bounced back from a 2-0 deficit this afternoon to stave off elimination, but that's what we've come to expect from the opponents in the Oxford Super Regionals. The Rebels win Game 1, show promise in Game 2 before crashing back to earth, then drop the rubber match.

There is no excuse for not winning tomorrow. There have been built-in excuses in the other Super Regionals Ole Miss has participated in, but not this one. If the Rebels lose this one, which one are they going to win?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Matt F#$%ing Smith

Holy hell what a baseball game this afternoon. Errors, poor bunts, bloody noses, baserunning blunders... you name it and the Rebels did it and still walked off with an unbelievable win in Game 1 of the Oxford Super Regional.

Matt Smith went from near goat in the top half of the 12th to unquestioned hero in the bottom half. His fielding error was a distant memory as soon as the loudest PING of the day sounded in a jam-packed OUS. One pitch. One swing. Ball game.

The question now is - Can the Rebels finish it off? They've been in this situation before - up 1-0 in an Oxford Super Regional - and have failed to advance both times. Can they finally put it all together this time?

Like I said earlier today, I think this may just be the Rebels' year to make it to Omaha. This isn't the most talented Rebel team in recent memory, but there's not been a scrappier, never-say-die team to wear the Red and Blue. They easily could've folded up shop several times today with the miscues and UVA's pitching, but they didn't. And they won't tomorrow.

While I doubt we see 9 innings out of Pomeranz tomorrow, we will see a performance where he keeps the Rebels in the game for as long as he's out there, probably 6-7 innings. It'll be up to the Rebels to generate some offense, tighten up the defense, and get their damn bunts down in key situations.

Virginia may be down, but they're not out. They've rallied around 1-run losses all season and they aren't going to roll over now. But if the Rebels get a typical Pom start and reach double digit hits for the 20th time in 21 games tomorrow, Rosenblatt Stadium and the fine people of Omaha won't know what hit 'em next weekend.

Oxford Super Regional... Third time a charm?

When the first pitch in the Oxford Super Regional is thrown this afternoon around 1:10 or so, it will mark the Rebels 4th Super Regional in 5 years, which is a run of success that few teams across the country can point to. Unfortunately, the other 3 have ended poorly for the Rebels. Perennial powers Texas, Miami, and Arizona State have all dispatched the Rebels with different levels of ease over the past few years, causing different levels of heartbreak for the Rebel Nation.

This year looks to be a different story. Instead of facing one of college baseball’s storied franchises, the Rebels will square off against Virginia. The Cavaliers are a very good team, having the 2nd best winning percentage in the country as well as the 3rd best ERA. Their pitching staff gave up exactly 2 runs in last weekend’s Irvine Regional, which is the lowest run total any team has surrendered since the format switched in 1999. The Cavs also bat at a solid .331 clip and steal a lot of bases – 104 on the season.

All that said, I like this matchup for the Rebels. The similarities between the teams as well as the schools (posts like this are why blogs were created) are eerie. And while the Cavs have an edge in every statistical category, other than ERA, none really jumps out at you. The Cavaliers pose a better matchup than a team that wants to come in and play 10-9 games all weekend.

Virginia’s projected starting rotation looks like this:
Freshman LH Danny Hultzen (8-1, 2.01)
Sophomore RH Robert Morey (3-0, 2.91)
Senior RH Andrew Carraway (7-1, 4.30)

Phillip Irwin gets the nod this afternoon, but after that Bianco says the rotation is not set, on which I call Shenanigans. Anyone who honestly believes that Drew Pomeranz is not going to take the mound late Saturday morning – a game that a win would either propel the Rebels to Omaha or stave off the end of the season – is just not paying attention. Pom’s performance Monday night was the greatest single pitching performance in Ole Miss history… no way he’s not out there Saturday with the season on the line. As expected, Scott Bittle is not pitching this weekend.

This is not the most talented team Bianco has taken to a Super Regional - not even close. But this is the scrappiest, and the most fun group of guys he’s been around. Their camaraderie has been a key component of their success this year and they’ll need to be extra-loose this weekend as they face a very talented UVA team. The Cavs are streaking now, winners of 8 straight games.

For the first time in a Super Regional, there is no reason to be intimidated by the team name on the front of the jersey. The Cavaliers are playing in their first Super Regional in school history. And despite their win streak, they’re still the team that finished 6th in the ACC. That’s not to undermine what the ‘Hoos have accomplished this year, but to emphasize the fact that this UVA team can be beat. The time has come for the Rebels to make it back to Omaha. And this might just be the team to do it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Auburn, Arkansas among projected most improved

In today’s Sporting News Today, Matt Hayes and Dave Curtis each answer the question “Which teams are on the rise?” Matt Hayes offers nothing of interest for SEC fans, citing UCLA, SMU, Colorado, Oklahoma State, and North Carolina State. Dave Curtis though offers plenty of fodder for bloggers across the SEC West.

Let’s start with his pick of Arkansas. Here’s how he views it:
Arkansas +4
2008: 5-7, 2009: 9-4
Here’s why: Where Bobby Petrino goes, wins follow. He’ll be this season’s example of the second-year bump enjoyed at the highest level by Bob Stoops, Jim Tressel, and Urban Meyer, among others. If Ryan Mallett can quit breaking fingers, he’s the best quarterback in the SEC West. Four wins seem a given in the nonconference (Missouri State, Eastern Michigan, Troy, and Texas A&M in Dallas). And the defense will tackle well enough to manage a 4-4 SEC record and a win in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
I happen to agree with him that the Hogs will be much improved. Say what you want to about Bobby Petrino - and I have - but the man wins games. If Ryan Mallett stays healthy and out of trouble, the Arkansas offense should be very solid.

I do take issue with a few of his assumptions though. When Chris Low ranked Jevan Snead the 3rd best player in the SEC, many felt that was too high as he’d only produced for one season, and in all honesty, it wasn’t even until the second half of the season that it all clicked for him. That said, how can you possibly rate Mallett the best QB in the division? He hasn’t started a game since 2007 when he completed 43.3% of his passes and compiled a 7/5 TD/INT ratio. Snead may not have proved it over a extended period of time (yet), but he a better track record than Mallett.

Arkansas’ defense should be better as it returns 79.4% of its tackles from last year, but a 4-4 record in conference is certainly no given. Home games against mittippi tate and Auburn seem gimmes and a home tilt with South Carolina is certainly winnable. The road slate is brutal with trips to Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, and LSU and a home game against UGA. Right now, I’d hardly count any of those as wins.

And lastly, the comparison of Petrino to Stoops, Tressel, and Meyer is pointless as they all won national championships in their second years at their current employers. Arkansas is not winning a national title this season.

That said, I can see Arkansas winning 9 games before anything he says about Auburn comes to fruition.
Auburn +3
2008: 5-7, 2009: 8-5
Here’s why: Don’t expect another tumultuous season on The Plains. The new coaching staff, with its limousines on recruiting trips and Big Cat Weekend for unofficial visits, has at least unified the program. Tommy Tuberville’s recruits will keep this defense strong, and by midseason, new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will turn one of Auburn’s quarterbacks into a proficient passer.
So, just so I'm 100% clear here, Gene Chizik won 5 games in 2 seasons at Iowa State and now, apparently magically, he’s going to win 8 in a single season? Riiiiiiiiiight...

I will concede that Auburn’s defense should be solid. Tuberville recruited good players on that side of the ball and Chizik’s reputation was built on his accomplishments as a defensive coordinator. But the spread offense failed miserably last year. What makes anyone think that it will work this year with much of the same key personnel? Particularly work well enough to win 8 games?

When I look at their schedule, I can’t find 8 wins anywhere. Home games against Louisiana Tech, mittippi tate, Testacle Tech Ball State, and Furman are most likely gimme wins, but that’s only 4. Squeezing 3 or 4 more wins (depending on how Curtis sees their bowl game going) out of West Virginia, @Tennessee, @Arkansas, @LSU, Ole Miss, @UGA, and Alabama is not going to be easy for this team.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Curious Case of Scott Bittle

As the excitement and sheer awe has subsided after Drew Pomeranz's performance Monday night, the Rebels have gotten down to business in preparations for a very good UVA team. The Cavaliers will roll into town this weekend with a ridiculous 3.19 team ERA and a lofty 46-12-1 record.

One of the biggest rumors circulating now is that ace righty Scott Bittle will be available to pitch this weekend against the 'Hoos. Some are very optimistic about it, others not so much.

Count me in the "not so much" group, more specifically the "No Chance in Hell he Pitches" group.

Bittle hasn't pitched in a live game since April 26th when he won the series-clinching game against Georgia. Friday's opening game against UVA will be 40 days since he last pitched. How effective do you really think he would be dropping him into a relief role in a high-pressure Super Regional environment in front of 10,000+ fans?

I tried as hard as any Rebel fan to will Bittle back from his arm troubles, but it's just not going to happen... at least not this weekend. Playing long toss during practice is a completely different animal than toeing the rubber on a mound. Bittle relies so much on his breaking stuff that it's unreasonable to think that his he'll pitch this weekend.

There's a good chance he'll be on the 25-man roster if for no other reason than to give the 'Hoos staff and players the illusion that they might have to face him. Even so, I'll be shocked if he even gets up to throw in the pen.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Just a friendly reminder to the bulldogs

Ole Miss:
SEC Co-Champs
Oxford Regional Champs
Hosting Oxford Super Regional

Southern Miss:
Atlanta Regional Champs
Headed to the Gainesville Super Regional

mittippi tate:

Drew F#$%ing Pomeranz

Great Googly Moogly... Drew Pomeranz firmly entrenched himself in Ole Miss lore with as clutch a pitching performance as you'll ever see, more than likely the greatest pitching performance in Ole Miss history. Coming back on just 2 days rest, Pom pitched a complete game, tying a school record with 16 Ks and giving up just 2 hits and an unearned run. How the first "hit" he gave up was not ruled an error I'll never know... and yet I won't care.

When Pom came back out in the 9th, my first thought was back to Game 1 in the Tempe Super Regional a couple of years ago when Bianco left Kline in an inning too long. Pom had just gone 7 innings a couple of nights ago... how much gas could he have left? The answer is obvious now - a lot.

A big tip of the Dead Guy cap to Western Kentucky though who tried their damndest to wreck another Oxford Regional. They just ran out of gas tonight after 5 games in 4 days. Their 2-4 hitters are better than a lot of SEC teams, but they were just outmatched tonight against Pom.

The continuing indictment of Mike Bianco continues to continue

Before we get into this, let’s get one thing straight… Neither I nor any level-headed Rebel is calling for Bianco’s head. The MessageBoardIdiots doing so are just that. He’s taken a moribund Rebel baseball program and built into a national power and people who gloss over that fact are missing the point.

That said, last night’s debacle was certainly more fodder for the faction of Rebel fans who think Bianco should move on. Why was Goforth lifted? Why was he replaced with our closer when we were up 6 with two innings to go? Why was our last remaining serviceable starter utilized at the end of the game?

In all honesty, I don’t see how the Rebs bounce back to win tonight. It was as frustrating a loss as the Game 1 Super Regional loss to Arizona State, and the Rebs were trounced in Game 2 of that one. Both teams will be deep into their rotations, but this year’s version of Rebels is not equipped to win a slugfest. If the arms are tired tonight and serving up BP for 9 innings, that greatly favors the Hilltoppers.

The flipside is that this is the scrappiest Rebel team in recent memory. They’ve scratched their way back to win some games this season that seemed hopeless at times. They’ll need their gutsiest performance of the year to shake off the sting of last night’s game. You could literally feel the air sucked out of the stadium when Wade Gaynor tied it up with his 3-run shot in the 8th. You could also feel the HR coming in the top of the 9th. It was just a matter of who was going to hit it.

Would the game have been different if Gofoth stayed in for the 8th and Morgan came in for the 9th? Who knows?

The bottom line is this: Mike Bianco is a fantastic ambassador for the university. He turned an also-ran sport into a national powerhouse that competes on a national level year after year. He is an elite recruiter. He has stocked the Rebel rosters with more talent top to bottom than any other coach in Ole Miss history. He is not an elite game day coach - at least not yet. Last night’s late-inning changes confirmed that. If the Rebs can't get back up for tonight's game, expect to hear it even more.