The College World Series is underway, and I don't feel so good myself, to paraphrase a title by the late Lewis Grizzard.
I almost drove there this week just to see the place. A couple of us talked about it. Rosenblatt Stadium, that is. In Omaha. But I realized next year is the last year of the old stadium. There'll be a new one downtown for the 2011 CWS. So I can wait it out another year.
I couldn't muster the energy anyway, not at the end of a lengthy sports season, and not without covering the Rebels there. And not watching USM there. And LSU, Virginia, Texas, and the others, including Arkansas.
I'd already watched the Rebels dismantle a Razorback team headed nowhere the last weekend of the regular season to win the SEC. Getting hot at the right time is important, huh. Or playing better than the other team, as Mike Bianco likes to say you have to do. Look no further than USM on the above points. Or have a coach retire and play for him like there is no tomorrow.
Corky Palmer and Augie Garrido, two coaches Ole Miss knows well, face off tonight. Arkansas and LSU lifted the SEC banner high Saturday. After keeping up with Cavalier pitching the last two weekends, putting up nine runs was pretty impressive for the Tigers.
I didn't watch any of the action Saturday, and I'll probably pay a little attention the rest of the way. Having teams all around us (USM, LSU Arkansas), and programs we're familiar with (Texas, Virginia, Arizona State) involved does make it more interesting.
But it doesn't make any that support the red and blue feel any better. Maybe worse.
To be close four of the last five seasons and not advance means the knock on the door has still been pretty heavy. For it to continue, the Rebels must keep getting quality players.
Like Miles Hamblin, whose brother, Danny, is a coach on the Razorback ballclub and a former Hogs player.
Hamblin, of Dallas, chose Ole Miss over teams like Nebraska and TCU. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound catcher joins sophomore to be Taylor Hightower as the catchers of the present for Ole Miss with the departure of seniors Brett Basham and Kyle Henson.
Hamblin wasn't drafted, which could probably be considered a surprise. But most felt he was going to attend college. The Rebels should continue to be sold at catcher with Hightower and Hamblin taking care of things.
Hamblin batted .445 for Howard (Community) College in Texas and will be a junior this fall at Ole Miss. He hit 17 home runs including a grand slam game-winner in the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colo. Howard was 63-1 this season. Hamblin, with 85 RBI and 18 stolen bases, obviously has experienced a lot of winning and has contributed to the cause.
Hamblin, along with other future Rebels, kept up with Ole Miss during the SEC championship season and Super Regional run.
"My brother was a huge resource to bounce things off of and also to tell me things I hadn't even thought about yet," said Hamblin, a pitcher and third baseman prior to moving to catcher a couple of years ago. "He and my dad had both been to Oxford for games when Arkansas played there, and the crowd is very involved. The players were really nice and welcoming (on his visit before signing last fall). Everything about Oxford made the decision easier."
Trent Rothlin is another. Also a JUCO signee, this 6-2, 185, RHP from Walters State CC in Tennessee originally signed with Clemson out of high school but ended up in community college before signing with the Rebels.
He's playing this summer with the Martinsville, Va., team in the Coastal Plain League. Rothlin was 7-1 this season at WSCC with 13 starts and two complete games, pitching 58 innings. His fast ball is in the 92-93 mph range, and he's got a slider and changeup in his arsenal. Rothlin wasn't drafted either but had his sights set on attending Ole Miss.
"I had a better second half of this season than the first half," said Rothlin, a North Carolinian who was drafted in the 35th round out of high school by the Mariners. "I was pitching better as the season went on."
Which is what teams have to do if they want to win and advance, like to the CWS. Ask Arkansas, USM, Virginia, and others.
Ask Ole Miss. Once again the Rebels witnessed a team playing perhaps its best baseball of the season - certainly on the mound - move on to play more baseball in Omaha.
Rebs familiar with CWS teams
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