These Rebs just win and hope to keep it up

Ole Miss has won 11 of its last 12 games. The Rebels can beat teams in so many ways. They constantly seem to reinvent themselves and find new, and in some cases old, paths to victory. Wins against Bethune-Cookman and South Alabama are certainly cases in point.

This team of the Ole Miss Rebels can beat you so many ways. If you're the opposing team, that is. Look no further than these examples.

Friday night Justin Brashear and Mark Wright, the Rebels' home run leaders with 12 and 13 round-trippers respectively, sent two solo shots out of the ballpark in a 3-2 win over Bethune-Cookman. Saturday night Jon-Jon Hancock and Chris Coghlan, with four homers total between them coming in, each sent one out of Swayze in a 9-7 Ole Miss win over South Alabama.

So many different ways they can win.

"I'm surprised somebody didn't ask why we didn't bunt more today," UM head coach Mike Bianco said after the Rebels advanced to a 5 p.m. Sunday game against the winner of a 1 p.m. loser's bracket game between Tulane and South Alabama.

There's yet another way these Rebs can win. Bunt. Small ball, if you will. If they need to, that is.

"And our defense," Bianco said as well. "Nobody talks much about our defense. We don't win that game tonight without great defense, like the play of Justin Brashear behind the plate."

Bottom line: They just beat you. They just win games.

At 42-20 now, Ole Miss has won 11 of its last 12 games. "Just win, baby." That seems to be the way these Rebs think.

And don't think those of you who attend games haven't played a part and will do so again Sunday afternoon - and hopefully next weekend for a Super Regional, now that national sixth seed Nebraska has been knocked out of the field.

"We've been to a lot of places to play regionals," said Bethune-Cookman head coach Mervyl Melendez after his team was eliminated by Tulane earlier on Saturday. "This was the best atmosphere we've ever been a part of. We are happy to have gotten to experience this. The hospitality we've received here has been awesome."

South Alabama head coach Steve Kittrell, whose Jaguars have participated in more regionals over the years than Bethune-Cookman, said the same thing a few hours later after Ole Miss had defeated his team.

"We want another crack at this environment," Kittrell said. "We've been to a ton of regionals. I can't say there have been any more enviroments better than this one. Ole Miss is a championship ballclub that seizes the moment. Their crowd really helps them."

Kittrell's Jaguars, leading 7-3 after six innings in Saturday night's game, appeared primed to take the lead role in this tournament. But Ole Miss answered again.

"It was a tough loss for us," Kittrell said. "We'd put ourselves in good position. But give Ole Miss a lot of credit. They just keep battling and battling. We saw that last night and again tonight."

It's almost a certainty that Ole Miss and Oxford will again host a Super Regional now that the Cornhuskers are toast. Bianco said he didn't mention to his ballclub that Nebraska had lost in Lincoln.

"But I think they knew it," Bianco smiled and quipped. "I think Glen Waddle (the stadium's public address announcer) mentioned it 42 times."

The players on the podium with the head coach - Chris Coghlan, Jon-Jon Hancock, and Garrett White - laughed out loud as did the media assembled.

But they all knew there was work to be done before any Super Regional is secured.

These first two games have not been easy. BCC led 2-1 in the eighth before the dramatics by Brashear and Wright. USA led 7-3 before the Rebels put up four in the seventh and two more in the eighth to take a two-run lead.

One real key has been Garrett White. The Rebels' closer has been the best he's been all season in the two regional games, striking out three batters in the ninth Friday and allowing no damage in the eighth or ninth Saturday.

It was almost as if Kittrell admitted he threw in the towel when White took the mound for Cody Satterwhite with one on and no outs in the eighth.

"I saw him throw last night," the veteran USA head coach of 22 years said. "I knew when he came in we were know, it was going to be tough. He's pretty good and has got great numbers. He comes at you. He's got a great breaking ball. He comes at you with that good fast ball. I was hoping we wouldn't see him tonight. If we'd have kept that good lead, we wouldn't have seen him. Now that we have seen him, maybe the next time we see him it will work in our favor."

By the way, when a reporter asked Bianco if White would be available any more this tournament, the head coach looked at the junior lefty and White responded, "I'll be ready."

So maybe Kittrell and the Jags will not only get another shot at the environment but also the Rebels' effective closer.

One thing that keeps working in the Rebels' favor this season, especially through the month of May, through the four games of the SEC Tournament victory run, and in the past two nights, has been the buttons the coaches push. Bianco admitted it helps when the decisions they make work out.

In baseball they sometimes don't. Lately, most of them have. Like inserting Hancock into the starting lineup tonight for the first time since the first game of the Mississippi State series on May 18.

"Jon-Jon had a great day for us today," Bianco said of his DH who went 2-for-4 with two RBI. "He had a great home run. He beat out a ball at third base. That was huge. That was the inning that broke everything open.

"He's been a guy for us all year, and he's certainly one of the guys who will always be in the mix. He's 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, and although he only has two home runs, you know he can always hit it out or get a hit. We're always trying to find the right guy. Sometimes we DH Cody Overbeck. Sometimes Evan Button. Tonight we picked the right guy in Jon-Jon."

Hancock said he believes he's handled it well not playing as much.

"That just goes along with it," he said. "Coach Bianco goes with who is hot. That helps us win. I just tried to approach it tonight like I always do. It's amazing how many people on this team can contribute to wins."

Even back to the early part of this one when starter Brett Bukvich wasn't maybe his best.

Bianco says the coaches teach pitchers to work through some of those type situations, even when it might appear to some that a change should be made on the mound.

"We tell our pitchers that if you're just waiting to have your best stuff to win, that's only going to happen about 20 percent of the time," Bianco said. "You have to win when you don't have all your stuff. Think about it. How often does a pitcher really have his fast ball, his changeup, his command, his location, everything that particular day? Those are the special days. Those are the days when you throw the shutout to win. But most days aren't like that, and you have to figure out a way to win.

"You have to win these type games to get to Omaha," he continued. "You have to win these type games to succeed in Omaha. You have to win games maybe you aren't supposed to. You have to win games where like last night we didn't hit as well but we pitched well. Or games like tonight.

"But it all comes together and clicks, and you might ask how did we do it. You look back and we probably did it a lot of different ways."

A lot of different ways to win, that is.

OM Spirit Top Stories