Long Time Coming

Stephen Head almost got to the College World Series as a player. His final season was 2005, and the Rebels lost to Texas in a Super Regional in Oxford.

Head, now on the Ole Miss coaching staff, will be a part of Ole Miss' first College World Series appearance in 42 years. He immediately looked back and thought of those teams he played on after the final out in Lafayette, La., Monday night.

"I wish all my teammates could feel what this feels like," said the All-American who played from 2003 through 2005. "My 2005 teammates, I wish they could feel what this is like, because we were so close to doing it."

Ole Miss did in 2005 what Louisiana-Lafayette did in 2014 – win the first game but lose the remaining two. Head said this was a different kind of pressure and ultimate success than what he felt as a player.

"To be so close to this group of guys and to just do it from a different angle, I've never been so nervous in my life," Head said. "What a great feeling, and I'm really at a loss for words, other than it's been a long time coming."

Head is also pleased for his former head coach and now boss, Mike Bianco. The Rebels had played in four previous Super Regionals and had lost all four, failing to advance to the College World Series.

"This is just a huge monkey off his back," Head said. "To have been to four super Regionals, and to win the first game in three of them at home and then to lose. To be able to come on the road, lose the first game, and then battle back the next two games against one of the best teams in the country, on the road, in front of this crowd, I think that speaks volumes for him."

Head said, surprisingly, that it was after a loss in the first Southeastern Conference weekend that he sensed what this team could do.

"It was the game we lost at South Carolina on that Saturday where we had them but we lost," he said. "It was one of those ‘Wow, we're really good. And we can play with anybody' deals."

Head said Monday night was special for him because he was on the field with the 2014 team. Yes, it's his team too, but the 2005 team was still in his thoughts.

"That's why I wish my teammates from '05 were here, so they could know what this feels like," Head said.

Monday's victory to claim the Super Regional, in a sense, got rid of a lot of negative vibes surrounding the program and even the school, got rid of a collective bad taste for so many, by finally getting to Omaha.

"For the program to have been so close, to lose your series at home, like Texas, Miami, or Virginia after winning the first game and getting everybody that amped up. Then to go through a five-year hiatus from Super Regionals to be able to play in front of the best 600 fans I've ever seen in my life, it was unreal. They were every bit as loud as (Louisiana) Lafayette's 3,500. And to win, it's unreal."

Head said this team continued to build from last summer until, well, this summer.

"We really challenged these guys like we've never challenged teams before," he said. "They didn't like it at first. But once they saw how it was paying off with winning close games, they bought in and this is their reward."

Head was then reminded that the Texas Longhorns are also in Omaha, just not in the Rebels' bracket, however.

"I'd love to play them for the national championship," he said.

So, without a doubt, would his 2005 teammates, and his 2014 team as well.

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