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Bianco tweaking blueprint for CWS

Published 12:05 am Saturday, June 14, 2014

When he arrived at Ole Miss in 2000, Mike Bianco thought he had a solid road map for getting his team to the College World Series.

Fourteen years later, after finally taking the Rebels there for the first time, he realized he now needed one just to get around Omaha.

“When I got to Ole Miss, I thought I had the blueprint. Once you got to Omaha, this is what you do. Unfortunately it took 14 years, and heck, they don’t even play in the same stadium anymore,” Bianco said Friday. “That blueprint isn’t as good as it once was, but again, we’re honored and excited to be here and can’t wait for it to get started.”

Mike Bianco
Mike Bianco

The College World Series gets under way today, with two games. UC Irvine plays Texas in the afternoon, and Louisville faces Vanderbilt in the nightcap.

Ole Miss will start its run in the College World Series on Sunday night against Virginia. Bianco’s team arrived in Omaha on Thursday, and got its first good look at TD Ameritrade Park with a one-hour workout late Friday afternoon.

TD Ameritrade Park, which replaced iconic Rosenblatt Stadium in 2011, is one of many different elements Bianco has to contend with as he conjures a new blueprint for victory in the CWS.

Whereas Rosenblatt was famous for its moderate size and hitter-friendly breezes, TD Ameritrade has quickly become notorious for its power-sapping abilities.

Only 22 home runs have been hit in three years at TD Ameritrade, including three in 2013, and no one has cleared the fence in center field.

For teams with strong pitching staffs and good defensive outfields — terms that describe both Ole Miss and Virginia — the new stadium is expected to be an asset.

“It’s not the best defensive club we’ve ever had, but we’re solid. We’re solid in the infield. Will Allen has had a tremendous year behind the plate for us,” Bianco said. “But it might be the best defensive outfield, which is more — I think will play more — make the difference in this park. The fastest outfield we’ve ever had, and guys that have just made plays.”

Other challenges, Bianco said, will come away from the ballpark. Three days in Omaha before their first game, and an off day between each one will force players and coaches to strike a balance of business and leisure.

Bianco wants his players to enjoy what might be a once in a lifetime experience. He also wants to make sure they don’t overdo it.

“I think another thing that is not talked about much, it’s so much different than any baseball tournament that you’ve ever played in. Win or lose, you get a day off where you come in on Thursday and you don’t play until Sunday night. It’s not your normal setting for them,” Bianco said. “They’re either used to a three‑game series or a conference tournament or a regional where you play every single day, sometimes you play double headers. There’s a lot of free time. So I think it’s a challenge to keep them locked in at certain points, but I think that’s the challenge for everyone.”

 CWS on TV

Saturday

2 p.m. ESPN2 - UC Irvine vs. Texas

7 p.m. ESPN2 - Louisville vs. Vanderbilt

Sunday

2 p.m. ESPN2 - Texas Tech vs. TCU

7 p.m. ESPN2 - Ole Miss vs. Virginia