Rebels shake off Wednesday loss to play for national championship
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OMAHA | Mike Bianco was mingling with a couple media members following his press conference when Mississippi State athletics director John Cohen walked up and embraced the Ole Miss head coach.
Cohen congratulated Bianco and wished him luck in the championship round. Ole Miss faces Oklahoma for the national title starting Saturday after beating Arkansas, 2-0, on Thursday at the College World Series. Game two is Sunday and an in-necessary game would be on Monday.
The Rebels were the final at-large team in the field, and Cohen is one of 10 NCAA baseball selection committee members. His presence is believed to have helped Ole Miss secure that spot. That selection is more than justified after Ole Miss won bracket two and is 8-1 in the NCAA Tournament.
Ole Miss (40-23) ran through opponents until Arkansas clipped the Rebels, 3-2, on Wednesday after leaving the bases loaded in the ninth inning. Ole Miss players were emotional following the missed opportunity, and Bianco admitted it would take a few hours to shake off.
There was no dwelling on Thursday. Ole Miss had, in some semblance, been here before. The Rebels were 7-14 in the SEC at the beginning of May but is 16-4 since then.
“Yesterday was tough,” Bianco said. “You could see they were down last night when we went out to left field… So to be able to bounce back and play like this today, another tough one. Nobody said it was going to be easy. You’ve got to handle it.”
Ole Miss has had six shutouts in the NCAA Tournament in school history, and three of those have come in the past six games.
Oklahoma went 3-0 in its side of the bracket and has had two extra days off in addition to playing one fewer game in the tournament. The Sooners have their normal weekend rotation ready with lefty Jake Bennett and righty and former Ole Miss commit Cade Horton.
“Oklahoma is going to be rested and have all their arms loaded and ready to go,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “But the way Ole Miss has been playing down the stretch, it might not matter.”