Miami wants what Ole Miss wants: Omaha

Miami head coach Jim Morris talks about the rise of college baseball and the growth of the sport nationwide. He and his players look forward to the challenge of playing in Oxford and proving once again they are among the best in the sport, even though they weren't ranked by some at the beginning of the season.

It's gotta be for the love of the sport that Jim Morris says he's happy college baseball has grown over the years. It can't be because it's any easier for his Miami program to win.

Quite the contrary. The Hurricanes are still one of America's most consistent college baseball programs. They've have been in Super Regionals every year since the NCAA went to that format eight seasons ago. The Canes have played in 34 consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

So how does Morris, the head coach at Miami for 13 seasons after spending 12 seasons as head coach at Georgia Tech, really feel about the new challenges?

"It's great to see all the places in college baseball who have elevated their programs," said Morris, a graduate of Elon College. "Like Ole Miss, and Nebraska, where we played last week. It's great for college baseball, and college baseball has never been better than it is right now."

But that parity has made things tougher for the Miamis of the world. A lot of those premier programs are still getting to Omaha, but there's more competition and a harder road to get there.

"I don't think there's any question about that," he said. "Parity in college baseball is unbelievable. To be able to have a chance to be in the top 10 and to have a chance to go to Omaha, you've got to be pretty good. College baseball has changed so much in the last five, ten, 20 years, even 30 years. Recruiting, the facilities, the competition, it's just grown so much, and that's great to see as a coach and as a sport."

Morris said the college baseball world is quite aware of what Ole Miss has done under Coach Mike Bianco the past few seasons.

"We're excited to be here for the Super Regional," he said. "We know we're facing a very tough team in Ole Miss, a team that won the SEC. if you win the SEC, then you're good, there's no question about that. They're an outstanding club.

"Mike Bianco has done a great job not only getting this team together but to do what he's done with the baseball program here. He's elevated the program here to higher standards.

"They've always been good here, ever since my old roommate with the Red Sox, Steve Dillard, played shortstop a few years ago. So it's an outstanding program, and we're looking forward to everybody being charged up in their seats at 6 o'clock, or even earlier when they open the gates, or so we've heard."

Speaking of hearing about the place, Morris said he had indeed talked to Texas Coach Augie Garrido on his experiences in Oxford last year.

"Augie's a very good friend of mine," Morris said. "I talked to him three times yesterday and once this morning. He's arguably the best coach in college baseball. I listen to him and ask him his opinion and learn from him."

Morris said his team would rather have played at home, but it didn't do enough throughout the season to play there.

"You get what you earn, and we didn't deserve to play at home," Morris said. "Throughout the middle of the season in particular we didn't earn a spot. The University of Miami put in a good enough bid for us to host, but it's based on RPI and win-loss record and rankings and those type things. The fact is we've actually played better on the road this year than at home. Certain years are unusual. In 2001, we won the national championship that year and lost 13 games. We lost 12 of them at home.

"Miami baseball has played a lot on the road. We've played in front of big crowds. We've played in front of hostile crowds. We're used to having people out there hollaring at us. You either love us or hate us or love to hate us."

Morris said there's no better example of that than playing last week in Lincoln.

"Because of football, nobody in Nebraska likes us anyway," he said. "We already know that. So when we go to Omaha, we always know that when there's 25,000 people there, that 24,000 of them will be for the other team, no matter who is playing. Same in Lincoln. That's just the way it is, and a lot of that is because of our football program."

Hurricane pitcher Scott Maine, who will start against the Rebels in game one, says he thinks the Canes and Rebs are alot alike.

"They're similar to us as far as batting average," said the 6-foot-3, sophomore LHP who is 11-3 with a 4.37 ERA. "They have six lefties in their lineup. That stands out to me. I kinda like the fact that they have that many lefties."

Another Miami pitcher, senior LHP Andrew Lane, says the 39-21 Hurricanes took it upon themselves to prove the early predictions for this team wrong. The Canes were not ranked in some preseason polls.

"Not being ranked at the beginning of the year was definitely a slap in the face for us, and we knew we had to prove we could still be competitive this season," Lane said. "We knew we had the leadership and the young guys who could perform. It was just a matter of performing. Now we want to keep it going."

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