So the College World Series is over, and lucky us. We got to see three games between the two best teams in the country weekend before last right here in Oxford. Thanks to the NCAA committee for setting it up like that, we didn't even have to travel to Omaha to see it.
OK, so I'm prejudiced and still a little miffed since Texas was too good a team to have to travel for a Super Regional, and Ole Miss was too good a team to have to host a team that should have been hosting in the first place.
To heck with what some have said, that you have to beat the best eventually anyway. Where you want to have the chance to beat the best is in Omaha, not beforehand. Of course had we eliminated the Longhorns here, I'd have felt pretty good about the Rebels' chances to win the whole thing out there.
The Longhorns did indeed put the exclamation point on their season Sunday by beating a team for the second straight day that Ole Miss had beaten four times this season.
Clearly the Rebels did as good a job as anybody against the Longhorns as the season wound down. Arkansas beat them once in the Regional at Austin, and Texas bounced back to win that tourney and advance. The Rebels got them once in Oxford, but UT bounced back again to win it and advance.
No doubt Ole Miss was the best team in the country that ended its season before the College World Series even started. Woe is us, I guess. Bring on next year.
Speaking of next year, as the days pass I feel better and better about the Rebels' chances for another good season in 2006. Will there be 48 wins again? Maybe only 40? Who knows at this point.
Of course pitching must be the biggest concern with all the guys who will be gone from this year's team. But the lineup of arms the coaching staff has signed appears to be solid enough to fill the void left by those departed. Besides Tommy Baumgardner, Stoney Stone, Will Kline, and Michael Wakefield, there won't be much experience on the Rebel pitching staff.
Fall baseball practice will grab more attention than ever, and rightfully so. The success of the last few seasons, especially this past season, along with the unknowns of the pitching staff and also a few positions means a lot of focus will be on Rebel baseball this September.
It's good to read, as Yancy reported, that RHP Lance Lynn appears to be coming our way. The sixth-round draft choice of the Mariners was in Oxford for orientation this weekend. He says he's preparing to be a Rebel.
I believe him but as is the case with all drafted players, I look forward to the first day of class in August when the deal is sealed.
Lance's team, Brownsburg, Ind., High, finished 35-0 and ranked second in the entire country. Lance was 16-0 with 181 strikeouts. You think Ole Miss might be able to find a spot for him to pitch in the spring?
Mid-summer indications are, even with outfielder Scott Van Slyke drafted in the 14th round by the Dodgers, that the Rebels may get all the players in school this fall that they were expecting and hoping. Again I'll feel better when the first day of class rolls around.
I was at the baseball stadium one day last week as the CWS played on in Omaha. The Rebel lockers were totally cleaned out. The stools with their numbers on them were in the bottom of their lockers. Even the nameplates on the lockers had already been removed.
It was almost a haunted place at that moment, knowing the activity and focus and noise and camaraderie that area underneath the third base grandstands held for this special team for months up until that fateful Monday of two weeks ago. And then it all changed.
But a new group of players will move in there soon, along with some returnees. And the push and drive to succeed will continue for Rebel baseball.
"Everything counts!" say the block letters above one side of the locker room. "Perseverence" reads another wall above more lockers. "Excellence is not a part-time thing" says yet another one in block letters.
"First we'll be best, then we'll be first" reads the lettering on the door leading into the locker room from the players' lounge area.
Even though some of the veterans return, it will indeed be a new Ole Miss baseball team this fall with Omaha still the goal.
Some of you had asked where the Rebels and future Rebels are playing this summer. Here is the most complete list I can come up with.
USA Baseball tryouts currently ongoing: Zack Cozart.
Cape Cod League: Justin Brashear, Wareham; Alex Presley and Chris Coghlan, Chatham; Justin Henry, Bourne.
Coastal Plain League (NC, SC, VA): Brett Bukvich and Logan Power, Petersburg; Will Kline and signee Kyle Mills (DH), Thomasville.
Northwoods League: Jon-Jon Hancock, La Crosse.
Central Illinois League: JoJo Tann and Justin Cryer, Danville.
Jayhawk League: Peyton Farr (had a walkoff home run in a recent game), Seward; C.J. Ketchum, Joplin.
Tommy Baumgardner is working with a team in Pittsburgh this summer. Stoney Stone and Mark Wright are on campus here this summer.
Other signees and where they are this summer:
Dulin Dodgers (Memphis): Zach Miller (INF), Philip Irwin (RHP).
Memphis Tigers summer league: Devin Hicks (INF, OF).
Mississippi Heat (Jackson): Cody Satterwhite (RHP).
Jackson 96ers: Wade Broyles (RHP).
Rawlings Prospects (Midwest): Evan Button (INF).
Legion Baseball (St. Louis): Scott Van Slyke (OF).
Pontotoc Legion: Wes Grilliette (RHP).
There are others not listed here, and if you know them please post them on the Spirit message board.
Some of you will be able to see them in action in your areas, while I know several who are listening to the games on the internet. I ran into some Rebel fans in Oxford this weekend who were going to listen to the Cape Cod League Sunday night game between the Chatham A's and the Wareham Gatemen. That's Coghlan and Presley vs. Brashear.
There's always been some remote interest in how the Rebels do in summer baseball. Winning has certainly increased the fans' need to know in that department.
The 2006 baseball schedule is tentatively set, and it appears the Rebels get Kentucky back but drop national runnerup Florida. That's a two-year SEC deal as teams continue to play 10 of 11 conference foes.
Ole Miss opens the season Feb. 17-19 against Saint Louis University for three games in Oxford. The other weekend series before conference play are New Mexico in Oxford (Feb. 24-26), Illinois-Chicago in Oxford (March 3-5), and at UCLA (March 10-12).
Home SEC series are Tennessee, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Auburn, and LSU. The Rebels open the SEC season against the Vols in Oxford, while the regular season ends against Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Again, the schedule is tentative and subject to change. But that's the way at least part of it stands right now. No word yet on which weekend is Grove Bowl.
Ole Miss baseball assistant coach Dan McDonnell has always made it clear he wants to be a head coach. He has checked into a few head coaching jobs the past couple of years. While he says he and his family love Oxford, his desire to be a collegiate head coach is strong.
Dan, with head coach Mike Bianco for five years since that first summer of the current program, has currently applied for several head coaching positions. But as of now he is still an assistant with the Ole Miss Rebels.
He said he would let us know if anything changes. I told him every day he was still in Oxford was a very good day for Ole Miss baseball. I can't imagine that there's a better recruiter in all of college baseball than Dan McDonnell.
Press Box Notebook (baseball postseason finale)
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