One last look back at the sweep

The Rebels had been swept eight times by State in three-game series since Ole Miss last swept the Bulldogs in 1978.

A reporter in the press box may have summed it up best when he quoted Barry Gunther after Sunday's sweep of State was in the books.

"When Gunther said ‘Jimmy Carter was president the last time Ole Miss swept State,' he sounded like he was talking about Abraham Lincoln or somebody."

We laughed.

There was a lot of laughter and happiness, and thrills even, surrounding Ole Miss baseball the past three days. And rightfully so.

Gunther, the Rebel fourth-year senior catcher, was born in 1982. The last Rebel sweep of the Bulldogs had been four years earlier.

And so it went all weekend. "When was the last time…..?" Or "You know the last time Ole Miss……?" Or "State hasn't lost to……"

Pick your question or statement and fill in the rest.

Rebel third-year sophomore John Morgan Mims' dad Johnny was a part of the UM baseball program the last time the Rebels swept State. None of the current Rebel players were alive. Mike Bianco was 10 years old, a kid in youth baseball in Florida.

John Vaught had just retired as the Ole Miss athletic director. Jake Gibbs had led the Diamond Rebs to the SEC title the previous year in 1977. Ron Polk was in his third season at MSU.

Go on? Nah, that's enough. The picture is crystal clear. It was a special weekend for Ole Miss baseball. Make that for Ole Miss period.

This had been a long time coming. Too long in fact.

Sweeping an SEC team is difficult. From 1989 when the Rebels beat Tennessee three times in the season finale the first year of Oxford-University Stadium until three straight wins over Kentucky in 1999, Ole Miss swept no SEC team. None. Nadda. Nobody for 10 seasons.

To put what's happened in the arch-rival series in even more perspective, since 1978 State has swept Ole Miss eight times in three-game SEC series. That doesn't count the times there were only one or two games played because of a rainout situation, and there were a handful of those when Ole Miss failed to win a game as well.

The sweeps at the hands of State that I remember most vividly (and painfully) were the recent ones here on Grove Bowl weekend when the temperature was cold and the Rebels' performance colder. That was two years ago.

The year before that in Starkville, the Rebels only needed one win to make the SEC tourney field and MSU had to win all three. They swept and the drive home to Oxford that Sunday night was one of the longest in memory.

Then there was the final weekend of the regular season of 1990, the second season in the "new" Swayze Field. That was back in the days of the Saturday doubleheader and Sunday single game. The Saturday DH was rained out. If only Sunday had been.

Final scores: Game one – MSU 17, Ole Miss 0. Second game – MSU 9, Ole Miss 0.

No wonder Ole Miss folks were so happy the way this past weekend went.

There have been a lot of great players and coaches the past 27 years. Guys who have given everything they've got for Ole Miss and the baseball program but who never experienced a sweep of State.

This weekend was for them, too.

This weekend was everything a lot of us knew Ole Miss baseball could become, if given the right tools coupled with talent and depth. Not many times the past 27 years has Ole Miss simply been more talented and a better overall team than State. This year, that's not the case. Four wins (counting the Mayor's Trophy victory) with a combined 30-6 score tally leaves no doubt.

Actually go back to last season when Ole Miss won two of three in the series in Starkville and also the Mayor's Trophy game and you can see that things have turned. Beating a team seven of eight times leaves nobody guessing who's on top.

I have to give a close Bulldog friend of mine credit for calling Sunday night. It wasn't as much of a congratulatory call to me as it was him looking for some consolation.

My how things have changed.

He took me to my first regional at State in 1987, the first year the Bulldogs were in their new stadium. My thoughts that weekend? We need to get in on this. We gotta do this in Oxford.

Over and over it didn't happen. The efforts from many were there, but sometimes the overall desire and commitment from top to bottom just didn't feel in place.

I went back to regionals at State several more times. Each time I envied.

But I also knew we could accomplish here what they were doing there. They didn't think so, but I knew better.

Last year Ole Miss hosted a regional for the first time. The Bulldogs had to travel for theirs. While ours last June was a success everywhere but on the field, we'd made a move.

This past weekend – from players and coaches to fans and support and enthusiasm and most importantly a sweep – everything fell into place, just like I always knew it could.

The moment I knew was when the Rebels led 5-1 Sunday and out to the mound trotted Stephen Head – poster boy for Ole Miss baseball in the modern era if ever there was one – to take us home.

And it all just felt so good.

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