Bianco's program rock solid

Ole Miss won two games against LSU Saturday under picture-perfect conditions for all concerned - except those in purple and gold.

It's always interesting, special even, to talk to people who witness a day like Saturday at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field for the first time.

Not just the fans, although they get caught up in the fever of it all. It's the players, too.

During game one I sat for an inning or two behind Nick Hetland, who pitched earlier in the season and is trying to get back to preseason form after an arm problem for several weeks. He had a hard time describing what he was witnessing.

The words didn't come easily as he watched cheering fans stand and applaud play after play, the outfield areas packed with students and others, guys and girls alike careening down the hill on a water-logged plastic makeshift slide to a pool of mud (Fun? They looked like they were having a good time to me.).

Craig Rodriguez, winning pitcher in game one, could hardly stop talking about the atmosphere. He even said he knew some of the students sliding down the hill in right.

"The big guy that slid down the hill, he's our neighbor," Rodriguez said, smiling.

Lot of smiles from those in red and blue on this day. The Rebels won two games over rival LSU.

Ah, a day at the ole ballpark in Oxford for a program still trying to get to Omaha for the first time since 1972 and fifth time ever.

As some coach somewhere said, "We ain't where we want to be, but we ain't where we used to be."

That's Ole Miss baseball.

Since so much has been mentioned and written about it lately, I'll chime in briefly. If the LSU job comes open this year, in my opinion, Mike Bianco stays put.

Call it intuition. Call it weighing the situation. Call it a gut feeling.

You know most of it. Ole Miss is paying him handsomely, more than LSU is paying Smoke, I am told. He's building a new house in Grand Oaks. His wife and five - yes five - kids love it here.

And so on and so forth. You've read and heard all that.

But the truth is Mike Bianco came to Oxford to get this program to Omaha and win a national championship. And that is still the goal.

If he gets Ole Miss to Omaha, is he leaving then? I suppose fans could visit that question every year. Maybe, maybe not.

I just know that there isn't a better situation for college baseball in America than in Oxford, Mississippi right now. Were you there Saturday for the doubleheader? If so, then you know, too.

And you should also know that the Ole Miss administration is doing everything possible to make sure the program stays in place. New coaches offices are on the way. Stadium improvements and enhancements are as well. Salaries for Bianco and staff are in line or better than others around the league.

Bottom line: Baseball at Ole Miss is more important than it's ever been. Baseball at Ole Miss is a nationally reputable program that is drawing attention from all over the country. Ole Miss baseball has a coach and a staff that many schools would like and be lucky to have.

As Bianco has said in print of the LSU situation, the only reason folks are talking about him being associated with whatever happens in the future in Baton Rouge is because he played and coached there under Skip Bertman.

Again, maybe so. Maybe not. With the success he and his program are having at Ole Miss, his name would be mentioned for several jobs now or in the future. Including LSU if that job opens at some point.

But more than all that, here's how one Ole Miss fan I talked to not long ago assessed things.

"Old Taylor Road by the baseball stadium in a few years will be renamed Mike Bianco Way," the fan said.

OK, maybe. Maybe not. That would be several years into the future.

Oxonians and Ole Miss students might be a ways from driving down a street with that name. But Rebel baseball is a lot closer to its first trip to the College World Series in three decades than it was just six years ago when Bianco and staff arrived. That much is certain.

And the certainty of some that Bianco might head to Baton Rouge one day is a lot less certain these days because of what's been and continues to be built here.

The event that was Saturday's doubleheader at Swayze confirmed that again in a big way.

Don't believe it, just ask Hetland and Rodriguez.

Or better yet, come see for yourself Sunday. A rare sweep of LSU just might be your reward for making the effort.

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