Thanks for being here today. I hope nobody was caught in the speed traps around campus. As you may realize, the speed limit went down from 18 to 10 MPH recently. Again we are happy and excited about baseball, only four days now away from Opening Day. They wanted me to mention quickly about the stadium and give you a quick update. I am happy and excited that all the work is going on. Obviously there will be some changes this year. We are asking fans to log on to OleMissSports.com and click on the baseball link. They can get some information about some changes with the gates and different things that will happen. But basically, from our standpoint with the team and playing the game, it is almost ready to go minus a couple bullpens that will be ready in a couple of days I understand. It won't affect the game, and the fans will get excited when they walk in because you can start to see it take shape. What it will end up being like. That link on the web site will have weekly updates. The two most disappointing things for the fans will be minus a playground and fans won't be able to go from leftfield into the stadium. They can keep their ticket and walk outside the gates and enter but not like before, at least not at the beginning of the season. Once you get to the stadium you will see why that is with the construction. There will be construction fences and will be working throughout the season. Panola Construction has been fabulous to work with throughout this process. There will be some obstacles, and we are asking them to be patient and understanding. This is a good problem to have. The stadium will be finished next February.
Now about baseball, we are certainly excited about this season being four days away. As I mention to the players a lot, when they get here in the fall, the season seems so far away. But you blink a couple times, and you are in mid-February and about to start. We are certainly excited because we return seven of our starting nine. Position players that went to a Super Regional last year and were a couple wins from the College World Series. We return the bulk of a pitching staff that was one of the best in the SEC and in the country. And of course, we were the third or fourth ranked defensive team in the country last year. We return seven. With that in mind, we are excited. We are coming off one of the best falls we have ever had. This past fall was a little different with the change of season. We had a couple more practices over a longer period of time. Most coaches were excited about the way it turned out. We were excited about the way we played. It was the best offensive fall we ever had. With the returners like Logan Power and Cody Overbeck, who hit double-digit home runs last season. And of course SEC Freshman of the Year Jordan Henry and All-American Zach Miller. We had a very offensive fall.
With the pitchers, we are all healthy and returning a bulk of the staff. Brett Bukvich won't be ready this first weekend, but he threw in an intrasquad game this past weekend. And then when you return two guys like Cody Satterwhite and Lance Lynn, it makes the coach sleep a lot better at night. The years when you try to figure out who is going to start Opening Day or the next day, I can't remember a time when I felt so comfortable with the pitchers. This is the most depth we've ever had. Not just the pitchers, but everyone. A recruiting class that was ranked 14 in the country. It breeds a lot of excitement.
Q: Can you talk about Cody being moved to the weekend rotation from the bullpen?
MB: A lot has been made of that, but one of the things is Cody was a starter when he got here. A lot of people forgot about that. He was the SEC Pitcher of the Week after beating Vanderbilt here in week two. Then we moved him to the bullpen, and he did a great job. One of the things is that he could do either physically. When he is drafted in June, I wouldn't be surprised if the club made him a starter or a reliever in professional baseball. Another thing, not a lot of other kids of his stature would do that. Cody has always done whatever I needed him to do. If you want me to close, I'll close. If you want me to start, I'll start. That shows he is a special baseball player, but he is also a special team type of guy. I think he is going to be terrific. He has proven he can do it in the past.
CS: I feel honored coming into the starter role. I am prepared and ready to do that. I will do whatever the team needs, and this year it is that starter role. I am very happy and a part of a talented staff that is deep. I am honored and ready to get going.
Q: Comment on your time with Team USA and how that experience was special?
LL: I left a little early with a nagging leg injury, but I had a fantastic time, and it was an honor to represent my country and play in the Pan-Am games. It is something you dream about growing up. I can't describe what it felt like to play for Team USA.
CS: It was an unique opportunity to get out there and compete with the world. Seeing the different brands of baseball that each country brings, and you are representing your country which you love. More than anything, it is a great opportunity to get out there and compete with the world's best. It shows what everybody's got.
Q: Talk about what the time off has meant for you guys, and where you are at right now?
LL: I feel great. Last season, I racked up a lot of innings, and the fall gave me a lot of time to regroup and get myself ready mentally and physically, so we can make a great run.
CS: It helped a lot with mechanics and from the transition from a closer to a starter. I have really worked on refining my mechanics and becoming more consistent on the mound. Going back and taking time off and working from the ground up is really starting to help my mechanics. That is where everything starts.
Q: How do you deal with the Omaha expectations?
Zach Miller: I've been here three years, and that word sticks in my mind daily. Coach Bianco and Omaha bound. Every college athlete wants a national championship, and we are going to continue going for it and not settle for anything less. We have a capable, talented team, so it is about doing all the little things, and can go all the way.
LL: I am excited about this year because it is my third year, and I have been to two Super Regionals and lost them both unfortunately. This year I am really looking forward to giving it another shot to make it to Omaha because that is the reason I came to college. It is a dream I have had since I was little. With this year's team, we respect each other and have been together for a while. So, we are ready to accomplish that together.
CS: This program has been built around Omaha. That is the main thing and main goal. When we step on the field, it is a marathon, and our goal is to win the national championship. As a player, we stress that Omaha is the end goal. We really don't want anything else but a national championship.
Q: Will the stadium hinder your ability to host postseason play?
MB: My opinion that I am fairly certain in, no. If the stadium was unsafe, then they wouldn't allow us to play baseball games. We couldn't play SEC games or any games for that matter. It will be safe. Probably the biggest difficulty will be with Lynette Johnson and John Hartwell and people that submit the bid to figure out how many tickets we can sell. Our facility, even with the areas you can't sit in like the left-side hill, still draw more than 98 percent of Division I baseball teams. And the way we have drawn over the years and our record for hosting, most of it is done on the field. Do you deserve it? Do you have a facility? Even with the construction, I have no doubt we will have the facility to do so. It shouldn't be an issue.
Q: Do you have concerns about keeping all the players happy?
MB: Good question. It makes it difficult to make out the lineup and find the three weekend pitchers. It is something we have to deal with. We have 40 players, and we told them that all of them won't start every night. 31 players aren't starting Friday. When you put a numbers perspective on it, it is 56 games, and those nine players alone can't get you to the College World Series. The lineup is always changed. We have never had the same lineup on Opening Day and the end of the year. We have never had the same rotation. The relievers change as well. Some guys play well at the beginning but not so much at the end. You try to make sure the players understand that. Depth is a good thing. The last couple years we haven't had that. We have had talent but not the depth like last year. You can also lose some players to injury. The biggest thing we see is that the competition makes them raise their game. Logan Power is a better outfielder this season, but that doesn't mean he will start in the same position. We are seeing that throughout the team. From the catchers to the shortstop and the pitchers.
Q: How does the competition in the infield affect you?
ZM: I have never been a part of something so challenging, but it has made me a better player. Button, Sean, Tim and myself, we are all happy to be here battling. For me, I need to worry about what I can do. You can't look over your shoulder all the time.
Q: You are now on the front of the media guide after being a role player at the beginning of last season. How have your expectations changed?
ZM: I need to get better defensively and continue to swing the bat. Those are personal goals of mine. Certain awards, I am not concerned with that. You go out, play the game and let all else take care of itself.
Q: How comfortable are you and Evan in the middle infield?
ZM: I have known Evan for three years now. We know where each other likes to play, and where we want our feeds. I feel really comfortable with Evan. Before Coach gave me a chance last year in Minnesota, me and him were behind Henry and Cozart. We have always kind of been there for each other and been pals basically.
Q: Talk about opening up with a team that was in the NCAA Tournament last season?
MB: The schedule is a little different. We only have three weekends during the non-conference, and you have to decide whether to play one opponent on the road, this year it will be TCU, who will return the trip next season. That leaves two weekends, and it kind of fell that way. We aren't the only one. Some other league teams are playing good opponents the first weekend. This is the year to do it with the pitching staff and the guys we are going to run out there the first weekend. Not to mention the depth, but also the experience that we have in the postseason. Every returning player knows nothing but a Super Regional. They understand the competition, and it is a big test opening weekend. They won 41 games last year and made the NCAA Tournament.
Q: Can you talk a little more about how the expectations affect the team?
MB: They are fun, and they are a motivator. When you are picked fourth in the country and picked to win the West, there are expectations, but I think the biggest expectations are put on by ourselves. I have always tried to not shy away from pressure. In recruiting, we talk about and welcome those expectations. We are glad they are there now, and we hope they are there next year.
Bianco and Players Comments from Media Day
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