By: Jeff Roberson
As the host school, Ole Miss was on its own field first today for practice prior to the Oxford Regional. The Rebels are excited to be back in the postseason at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field for the first time in two seasons.
The weather was late-spring hot as Ole Miss worked out from 10 a.m. until 11:15. Then it was time for another warm-weather school to take the field – second-seeded Tulane from New Orleans.
After that, Boston College and Utah, respectively, got a dose of southern heat and humidity as the third and fourth seeds walked onto Swayze for the first time.
Tulane and Boston College play at 3 p.m. Friday, while Ole Miss and Utah play the nightcap at 7 p.m.
It’s the seventh Oxford Regional since 2004. Ole Miss has won all of them except the first one. The winner of the 2004 Oxford Regional? The Tulane Green Wave.
Ole Miss will start veteran ace Brady Bramlett against the Utes, who will counter with right-handed ace Jayson Rose.
Quotes from practice:
On being a part of a Regional in Oxford: “I keep asking Colby, Errol, and J.B. if Friday is going to be crazy, and they say just say wait and see how live it’s going to be. I was curious myself yesterday so I went on the Internet to when (Ole Miss) hosted regionals, and it’s pretty crazy. I’m excited to get going. I told myself Monday I don’t even want to practice, just want to go straight to a game. I’m looking forward to playing on Friday. Whenever you can play in front of your own fans and sleep in your own bed at night and you wake up in the morning and do the same things as always it comforts you more. It helps us and we know what to expect from our fans. Being at home in the regional is definitely a bonus for us.”
On his season and on the team’s defense: “I’m very pleased with my season and how I’ve done so far. I thought last year would have been like this year so it’s definitely how I wanted to play this year. I’m blessed with the work I’ve put in since the fall and the help from the coaches. It’s been great with the coaching staff and working with them. It helped playing in the best summer league and it’s always fun playing against the best guys. You keep pushing your limits and see what you’ve got. After a hard year I knew I’d bounce back sooner or later, so no better time than getting it rolling from there in front of the scouts. Defensively we’ve stayed relaxed. We come out here and mess around a little bit, but we know when to be serious. Outfielders work their tail off and we work our tails off, too. We stay focused and defenses win championships. That’s what we are trying to do. Our confidence is pretty hight, and we’re going to keep rolling from here. We’ll keep swinging well and having good at-bats. This is the right time to get hot at the end of the year.”
On hosting: “Looking forward to it. I’ve heard a lot of things about it. I heard it’s insanely packed. We’re ready to show up and play.”
On his likely second game start in the Regional, which has not been announced yet: “It’s the same routine basically. Just a little bit longer rest (since the SEC Tournament). I still threw my bullpen on the same day I usually do.”
On bringing stability to the No. 2 starter spot: “I didn’t really find it much of a transition at all (moving to the second spot in the rotation from mainly a relief role). The only thing different was coming out in the beginning rather than coming out in the middle. Same routine through the week, everything like that. So it really hasn’t been much different. Just a different mindset.”
On what that different mindset is: “It’s almost like It’s in your hands and you’ve got to take control of it. Going from there, it’s not much different.”
On how he approaches pitching this weekend, knowing he is not pitching that first game: “I really focus on that first game and doing all I can to help us win, even though I’m not pitching. I don’t know yet when I’m pitching this weekend. We have a pitchers meeting before every single game, every new team. We go over their lineup, their statistics, where their strengths are and their weaknesses are. From there I just let Coach (Mike Bianco) call the game. He’s got all the sheets and stats, and I trust him to do what he does. (I have shaken him off) rarely, very rarely. That’s only if I feel a pitch better than he thinks I do, and I really feel like I will be able to get them out on it. He says you’re fine to shake him off, because he knows that what you know is probably going to be the best. He doesn’t want you to throw something you don’t want to throw, because that will end up being a mistake.”
Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco
On Henri Lartigue after a mild concussion at Hoover: "Yeah, he’s full-go. He’s been full-go since Wednesday."
On playing at home: "I think it’s always a great time of the year, to be in the postseason but certainly to play at home. I think it’s a great reward, not only for the players but for the fans. I think yesterday they had already sold 6,700 books. A lot of people are excited about baseball still being played in Oxford."
On Utah: "Obviously (Jaysen) Rose is terrific and seems to have beaten just about everybody in the Pac-12, one of the big reasons that they won that league. To win a conference like that, or any conference, I think you have to have an ace on the mound. Certainly he’s been that guy for them. offensively, they’re an older group. Everybody I’ve talked to, what a mature lineup they are, how tough they are, how the compete all nine innings. What we thought: very good opponent."
On Utah starter Jaysen Rose: "He was a guy that’s an ace, a guy that’s good fastball, breaking ball, excellent changeup, a guy that’s won all year long in one of those power conference. You don’t win in your league without an ace and certainly he’s that for them."
On preparing to see new pitchers: "I don’t think it’s much different than what you would do in a normal week. It’s a different teams. But remember when you’re playing LSU or teXas A&M it’s three different pitchers as well. You try to find video if you can. It’s a little more difficult because you know in our league everything’s on the SEC (Network), ESPN3 or SEC Network Plus. It’s a little more difficult from that standpoint. Same way. You try to gather reports from other teams that they’ve played, try to find as much video as you can. One of the things that we do is all week it’s the job of Marc MacMillan who kind of always heads up the scouting reports, Mike Clement and Carl Lafferty to try to gather all the reports on all three teams but I really don’t look at anything except for Utah the whole week. I just kind of concentrate on them, watch their video and then get a chance tomorrow afternoon at 3 o’clock to watch the other two teams in Tulane and Boston College and once that game’s over, again because it’s hard to prepare for three teams, let’s concentrate on Utah, and after that game look to next opponent."
On pitching probables after Bramlett: ""I think you want to get through the first game first and see who you’re playing and hopefully that you win. You don’t even know if you’re going to win or what time you’re going to play and what you have in front of you. I think the best thing is to just announce it – and we haven’t even told those guys yet. Let’s try to get through the first game."
From Ole Miss athletics media relations, here are some capsules on seeds two through four.
REPORT ON UTAH
The Rebels will face Utah to begin NCAA Regional action Friday night. The Utes went 25-27 during the 2016 regular season, earning an automatic bid as the Pac-12 regular season champions. After being picked to finish 11th in the preseason Pac-12 poll, Utah shocked the conference by going 19-11 to win the crown. Utah is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009, when it was a member of the Mountain West Conference. Four Utes are hitting over .300, led by a .328 average from Cody Scaggari. Scaggari is among the Pac-12 leaders in batting average (11th) as well as slugging percentage at .492 (10th). Utah will throw ace Jayson Rose Friday night, who leads the league with 102 strikeouts. Rose is 8-5 in 15 starts on the season, boasting a 2.62 ERA in 103.0 innings of work. Bill Kinneberg is in his 21st season as a head coach, including his 13th at Utah.
A LOOK AT THE GREEN WAVE
Just like the Rebels, Tulane claimed an NCAA Tournament berth for the 21st time in program history. The Green Wave earned an at-large berth with a 39-19 overall record as well as a 15-7 conference mark to capture the American Athletic Conference regular season crown. Tulane is ranked as high as No. 15 in the national polls and leads the country with 13 shutouts this season. Right-handed senior Emerson Gibbs has two complete game shutouts to his credit to go along with a 2.44 ERA. The starting pitcher is holding opponents to a .215 average over 103.1 innings of work. At the dish, the Green Wave has hit 60 home runs as a team, leading the conference and ranking 21st nationally. Three hitters have double digits in homers, led by Hunter Hope’s 13. David Pierce is in his second season guiding the Green Wave.
SCOUTING BOSTON COLLEGE
Earning an at-large bid out of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Boston College is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009. The Eagles enter the tournament with a record of 31-20, including 13-15 in ACC play. Senior Joe Cronin is BC’s leader at the plate with team highs in doubles (13), triples (3), home runs (4) and RBI (34). Splitting time between a starter and closer, Justin Dunn is a Third Team All-ACC honoree with a 1.35 ERA in 53.1 innings. Starting pitcher Jacob Stevens is 3-3 with a 2.04 ERA, putting together a season that earned him ACC All-Freshman accolades. Mike Gambino is in this sixth season as Boston College’s head coach.