More Baseball Talk

Is there a hump? Is there a hurdle? What is it that the Rebels must do to get past a Super Regional and get to the College World Series?

"We've been to four Super Regionals in five years," Coach Mike Bianco said. "All our teams have been different. The '05 team was the most powerful team that we've ever had. And we didn't get there. The '06 team actually scored more runs than the '05 team but didn't pitch as well. The '05 team was physically the most complete team. They could really pitch. They could defend. They hit. They hit for power. They ran into a very good team (Texas).

"It's not about luck, but there's some good fortune that goes in," he continued. "You have to believe that. But you have to play well. For the first eight innings out in Tempe (against Arizona State in '07) and in all the other Super Regionals, for the most part we've played fairly well. We've played hard but we haven't played better than the other teams."

And the "other" teams are good as well, he said. You don't get to the Sweet Sixteen of baseball and that not be the case.

"When you get to that point, all the teams are good," Bianco said. "Again, it's not making excuses, but you look and Texas didn't have that great a year until they came to our place. We were the national seed and were the last team to beat them. We won the first game here and then they beat us twice and didn't lose in Omaha to win the national championship.

"Miami was a two seed at Nebraska, they come here and play great," he continued. "We went to Tempe and had a shot to win (game one). But our team that year had trouble closing games out. We had a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth and couldn't win, gave up three runs to lose. This year's Super Regional was a pitching dual. Very close games. They got a couple more hits, stole a few more bases, and got a few more runs across."

So what does the team need to do better, what is missing, for it to play into mid and late June?

"I think the thing that stands out for most people is lack of power," Bianco said. "And that's for a lot of reasons. One, there were some guys who didn't hit with the power that they're capable of. Matt Smith, who had a tremendous year and played much better this year, hit 14 home runs as a freshman and only eight home runs as a sophomore. You would assume going into the year that he was going to hit 14 or more home runs. Add another 10 or 12 home runs to his total (of eight), and you see what we have.

"Then look at other guys, like Evan Button. You would think five to ten home runs. (Button hit two.) And Tim Ferguson (with two home runs). Yes, those guys platooned, but you'd think they would have hit more. I think (Ferguson) is a double digit home run guy. Logan Power hit the least amount of home runs probably he's hit in his career (seven this season). Some guys we recruited that we thought would have bigger years didn't."

Bianco also mentioned that home runs weren't the difference in the Super Regional. Ole Miss hit two home runs and Virginia had none in three games.

"So that's not the only way to get to Omaha, by hitting more home runs," he said. "There's a team that beat us without them. But (power) is still the thing that stands out the most. We want to continue to run the bases well. But we want to do that collectively through the lineup. There were some guys that could not run. We ran well but probably not as well as our numbers show because Jordan (Henry) stole 40 of those (92) bases. Forty of them were from one guy."

Bianco said Ferguson could have those numbers next season.

"I think he will be that guy next year," he said. "If he plays every day, I think he will steal 40 or 50 bases next season. I don't know if he will be the leadoff guy, because I don't know if he's that type of hitter. He's not going to walk and do the things that Jordan can do."

Pitching-wise Bianco said things were good.

"I think we were solid on the mound," he said. "We led the SEC in ERA. We pitched well at the end when it counted and held teams down. We were pretty solid on the mound in all aspects, from starting pitchers to relievers, and this team showed they could pitch with the best of them."

The loss of Scott Bittle for the final three SEC series and all the postseason was damaging to the team's chances of advancing to this week and having a real shot at winning a national title.

"There are so many things when you look back at this year, and that's one of the neat stories," Bianco said, from the aspect of how the team responded to his loss and also continued to win. "I don't think a lot of people gave us much of a chance after that. If you'd said Scott Bittle would be out the last three weekends and you wouldn't have him for any of the postseason and this team would be this close to getting to the College World Series, that says a lot, not only about the pitching staff but about the team.

"For Brett Bukvich to step up. For Phillip Irwin to kinda catch his second wind. For Drew Pomeranz to take his game to another level. For Jake Morgan to continue to pitch well. For Nathan Baker to be tremendous down the stretch. For David Goforth as a freshman to do great. That all says a lot about the depth, a lot about the guts of the staff, and I think the team in general."


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