The Bear, The Thing, The Coaches

HOOVER, Ala. – When The Bear is on and The Thing is working, Lance Lynn and Scott Bittle are as fun to watch as any combo to come down the Rebel pike in years.

They kinda give you that same feeling we all got when Mark Holliman would pitch deep into a contest and Stephen Head would enter to finish.

Wednesday night was special as the current all-star duo kept the SEC champion and top-seeded Georgia Bulldog bats silenced for the most part.

In the postgame press conference underneath Regions Park after the Rebels won 4-1, Lynn and Bittle were their usual low-key selves, which they normally are win or lose. They weren't too high about things after this one, nor are they too low most of the time after less than stellar performances.

In baseball, if it always starts on the mound, Wednesday night it clearly did for the Rebels. But in actuality it started before Lynn even took the hill. It started when the game's leadoff hitter Jordan Henry got that bouncing infield single Georgia third baseman Ryan Peisel fielded but didn't even attempt to throw.

We missed the old Jordan Henry through much of the earlier portions of this season. Last night's first at-bat was a flashback to last season when the kid from Vicksburg led off several games in just such fashion. And it was a big lift as Ole Miss went on to score half its runs that first frame.

That Henry, 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored, joined teammates Lynn and Bittle on the podium in the postgame was almost as important as what the two pitchers had done as well. Jordan being "back" can only be a good thing for this team.

Before the postgame press conference last night near the Rebel dugout, there were clear signs the pressure was now off this team, that the start of a "new" season they'd all talked about earlier this week was indeed the case, and that they know now they can't be left out of playing somewhere next week.

Brett Basham and Lynn and Bittle were all at the top of the dugout talking about the game, laughing and reliving some moments, individually and collectively, from the important victory.

This Rebel team needed Wednesday night's win for a lot of reasons. Make a list, and those reasons are likely on there.

Ole Miss had the largest contingent of the day in Hoover – besides what could be considered the home team, Alabama. And most of their fans had left by the seventh inning stretch of the late game for two reasons – that it was past 1 a.m. today and the Crimson Tide was down six runs and playing like it was, well, after 1 a.m.

Ole Miss now plays Kentucky. The Rebels had never played Georgia in the SEC baseball tourney until Wednesday. Tonight, at whatever time this one will finally start, they'll play the Wildcats for the first time ever in this event.

Ole Miss will again have a lot more fans than its opponent, as the Rebels in the grandstand outnumbered Georgia fans at least four to one.

Kentucky didn't appear to have as many here as Georgia, but a huge Alabama crowd did little to rattle UK's team. It will again come down to between the lines as it always does.

This one has a little extra storyline that the Ole Miss-Georgia game didn't. Bulldog head coach Dave Perno would likely be considered one of the calmer managers in the SEC. Bianco and John Cohen perhaps two of the more intense.

This UM-UK rivalry could arguably be evaluated as going way back. Bianco played at LSU when Cohen played at Mississippi State. When those two played, LSU and MSU were the two top programs in the SEC.

Since Cohen played at State, his real arch-rival was, of course, Ole Miss. Throw that into the mix.

And throw this in. As you would expect, the former Bulldog player has been prominently mentioned as a replacement for Ron Polk, who himself was parading around Regions Park all day Wednesday, briefcase in hand and a conversation at every turn. Could the now retired coach be looking for yet another job?

Certainly the one he has vacated has his former player, Cohen, among the ones most talked about to take over, along with current Bulldog assistant (and Polk's admitted choice) Tommy Raffo, current Baylor head coach and former MSU assistant Steve Smith, and back to back national championship head coach Pat Casey of Oregon State.

There are others, but those are the ones most mentioned over here.

When Bianco was head coach at McNeese State and Cohen was head coach at Northwestern State, the two went head to head. Now their teams' games are headliners as they lead two strong SEC programs.

Bianco-Cohen, the matchup tonight, could be an in-state battle by next season.

It's all just one more storyline that makes tonight's game interesting to follow.

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