As most of ya'll know, we like to get an inside look into the Hoos' opponents by talking to our SB Nation brethren that cover them. We traded some questions with SB Nation's Ole Miss Blog, Red Cup Rebellion to see what they thought of the Ole Miss Rebels entering Omaha.
STL: Has anyone in the town of Oxford slept since Monday night? I assume it's been a non-stop rave at the Library and Square since.
RCR: I don't live in Oxford, but it has been hard enough to sleep when I'm 700 miles away (I live in Durham, NC). From talking to people who live there, work product is at an all-time low as people debate flying to Omaha all day long. Just based on internet chatter, it has been even more all-encompassing an experience than I had expected. The team had come so close so often that fans had just gotten it into their heads that a trip to Omaha would never happen. Now that it has, most aren't sure what to complain about.
STL: I was with the team in '09 that came to Oxford (probably not the last time I bring that up), but everyone said that Bianco was on the hot seat back then. How did he last another 5 seasons? Does this trip to Omaha secure his job for the foreseeable future?
RCR: He survived because he built the program. When he took over, average attendance was around one thousand. Now, average attendance is just under eight thousand with 10+ not unheard of. He was on the hot seat to me for many years and didn't produce a college world series berth. He seemingly kept doing JUST enough to not get fired. Then, when his team was picked to finish sixth in the SEC Western division, he won it and took the team to Omaha. It's insanity.
Yeah. He'll need another berth in the next 4 or 5 years to have a lifetime contract, but this definitely gets a lot of the heat off of him. Anyone who thinks he's in any danger of losing his job in the next few years, regardless of outcome, is mistaken.
STL: When I watched ya'll's series with ULL they mentioned that Ole Miss had a .307 BA (since come down to .303), and I nearly did a spit take. Was this offensive explosion expected coming into this year?
RCR: Briefly, no. Recent offenses have been incredibly stagnant. This one isn't.
Last season, Will Allen, Auston Bousfield, Austin Anderson, and Sikes Orvis batted .231, .253, .310, and .237 respectively. This season, they are hitting .349, .345, .331, and .295. It's remarkable. Add to that group, two freshman who are batting .300 (JB Woodman and Errol Robinson), a juco transfer who is at .290 after starting the season hovering around .200 (Braxton Lee), and a couple of guys who can come through with timely hits (Will Jamison and Preston Overbey), and the lineup is pretty strong.
Mike Bianco has also had success with pinch hitting freshmen Colby Bortles (.262 but on fire lately) and Brantley Bell (.307). It makes no sense. I can't figure out what happened.
STL: I see you have your own version of Wes Rea is Sike Orvis (two phenomenal names, BTW) who leads the Rebels with 14 HRs. Does he have the power to hit a ball out of TD Ameritrade?
RCR: Maybe? Most of his home runs are just over the wall, but he has hit a couple near center field (390 in Oxford). While it may look like Ole Miss is a team that relies heavily on the home run, that's not necessarily the case. We hit for contact and power.
STL: Sunday's matchup features one of the top hitting teams against one of the top pitching teams, but that's only half the game. Does Ole Miss have enough pitching to carry them through Omaha? (I think it's a dumb question, but it seems like a "journalistic" question that has to be asked)
RCR: Yes. The team ERA is 2.72. Ole Miss has Friday and Saturday starters who went undefeated in SEC play. They have at least five reliable relief pitchers, three of which have shown the ability to go 4+ innings regularly. This is another weird development. Ole Miss lost its Friday and Saturday night starters last year and returned a group many thought to be in shambles. Then they lost someone who was competing for a majro role to Tommy Johns. Then magic happened and produced a pitching staff as good as most in the country.
I'm not a homer. I promise. I've dogged the baseball team a lot through the years. This team is just really good.
STL: Are Ole Miss fans willing to sacrifice their drinks they purchase in the stadium should the Rebels score a run or hit a home run?
RCR: Ah yes.... beer showers. Love those things.
I will not throw my beer (since i imagine it will be quite costly), but more power to those who do. Honestly, if anyone manages to hit a home run in that park, there's reason for downpour.
STL: Personally, I love Ole Miss. After our trip to Oxford in '09 (told you) I have cheered for the Fightin Hotty Toddys whenever I get a chance (so long as they weren't playing UVa or Auburn [Mom went there, sorry]). Having been eliminated by UVa in 2009 and 2010, does the Ole Miss fan base despise UVa baseball?
RCR: Not really. Honestly, at that time it was just more of the same. Fans were mired in a sea of doubt, and Virginia just validated what most people thought about those teams: they were good but played tight in the postseason. This team doesn't do that.
I think most Ole Miss fans probably like UVA in general. We see your school as somewhat like ours, at least in fan culture. Obviously, UVA is a more respected degree, but there's something to the aristocratic feel we can appreciate about one another.
STL: Is all of Oxford coming to Omaha or just 95%?
RCR: Ha. It's a long drive, but I've talked to a lot of people who are heading up. I've already got my ticket.
I did think about this the other day though: If lightning struck and Ole Miss made the championship series, I couldn't afford a return flight. It would be sad to miss that.
STL: I won't be able to make it out to the CWS, but can you assure the male population that will be in attendance that Ole Miss is bringing their Diamond Girls and a lot of their Co-eds? (SWOON)
RCR: The Diamond girls came to Louisiana-Lafayette, so I can only assume some will come to Omaha as well. I encourage you not to judge the lady folk on their appearance at baseball games though, since I doubt you'll see the sundresses for which our university has become most known. Those are reserved for the Grove and football season.
STL: Last question, how do you see Sunday working out?
RCR: I think that the team who wins that game plays for the championship. UVA is a great team, and Ole Miss is too. The Rebels had to face a tough Washington team in the regional (twice) and a fantastic ULL team (trust me... we thought they weren't good because of the Sun Belt. We were wrong.).
Part of me wants to predict Ole Miss to win, since the team definitely appears to be hot at the right moment. I expect UVA to pull it out though. It's the Rebels' first time on that stage, and there's a sense of relief to have gotten to that point. I'm not sure UVA is approaching with the same "happy to be here" mindset that may be in Ole Miss' players' heads. It's going to be really close though. Most outlets consider UVA the best team remaining in the field, and I think their balance may just be too much for the Rebels.
If Christian Trent, Ole Miss' Saturday starter, starts the game though, all bets are off. The sophomore is a phenomenal lefty, and I imagine your lineup isn't perfectly designed to beat left handed pitchers.