June 10, 2014 10:48:17 AM
"Every dog has its day," goes the old saying.
Finally, every Rebel does, too.
Roughly a year ago, Ole Miss fans watched as the Mississippi State Bulldogs rolled over Virginia in the NCAA Super Regional baseball playoffs to claim a berth in the 2013 College World Series. MSU wound up playing for the national championship and finished as the national runner-up.
Undoubtedly some Ole Miss Rebel fans applauded the Bulldogs' success, but even the most gracious of Rebels had to have felt the sting of relative failure.
While Ole Miss had enjoyed a revival of its baseball fortunes under 14th-year head coach Mike Bianco, the Rebels had never managed to make it over that final hump.
Until Monday, that is.
Ole Miss defeated Louisiana-Lafayette, 10-4, Monday in the final game of a best-of-three Super Regional final in Lafayette, La., to earn its first trip to the College World Series since Nixon was in the White House, "The Godfather" was in the movie theaters and Sammy Davis Jr. topped the Billboard charts with "The Candy Man." In other words, it was 1972 when the Rebels were one of the eight teams to convene in Omaha, Neb., to decide the national championship. It was the fourth time Ole Miss had reached the CWS. It would be a 42-year wait until the fifth.
Interestingly, the Rebels' previous trip to the CWS came a year after MSU made its first. During the intervening years, the Bulldogs made it to Omaha eight more times while the frustration only built for the Rebels.
Last year at this time, as MSU was moving through the CWS, some Rebel fans were wondering aloud if Bianco had what it takes to get the Rebels where they wanted to be. Under his guidance, the Rebels had come tantalizingly close to reaching that goal, only to fall just short. Four times before this weekend, Bianco took the Rebels into a Super Regional. Four times, the Rebels couldn't pull it off. Maybe Bianco just didn't have what it takes to make that last big step, the thinking went.
Certainly, this weekend began with a familiar feel. Lafayette beat Ole Miss in the opening game of the three-game series and the Rebels were suddenly a loss away from another frustrating end to an otherwise successful season. That Lafayette, ranked No. 1 in the nation, had not lost consecutive games during the entire season was a troubling footnote after that initial loss for the Rebels.
We know now how the story played out. Ole Miss used some late-game offensive fireworks in the final two games to secure that long-coveted trip to Omaha.
The win not only validates the success of the Ole Miss program, but provides a measure of redemption for Bianco -- not that he is likely to acknowledge it.
Ole Miss is to be commended for its patience where Bianco is concerned. MSU fans, meanwhile, may be inclined to draw an interesting parallel. In the spring of 2012, MSU forced out its basketball coach, Rick Stansbury, who kept piling up 20-win seasons but did not manage to get the Bulldogs into the NCAA Tournament often enough to suit an impatient fan base and administration.
You can make an argument that sometimes the best move to make is no move at all.
Ole Miss, though understandably frustrated, stuck by its coach and will begin reaping the awards of that decision Sunday, when Ole Miss plays Virginia in its opening game of the College World Series.
For years now, MSU fans have taunted Rebel fans by saying that Omaha was an acronym for "Ole Miss At Home Again."
They can't say that anymore.
Finally, the Rebels have their day.
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