Rebels reloading for another shot at Omaha|[6/14/06]
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006
OXFORD – Miami Hurricanes coach Jim Morris is well steeped in college baseball success and he can see that the Ole Miss Rebels are nearing that same lofty status.
Miami defeated Ole Miss in three games in the weekend’s Super Regional in Oxford to advance to their 22nd College World Series. The Rebels finished the season the same way last year, with a heartbreaking loss just shy of Omaha. Last season, Ole Miss beat Texas in the first game of the best-of-three series only to bow out in two straight after that.
“They have made great strides at Ole Miss,” Morris said. “They have put everything together and are bringing it to a new level, no question.”
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Coach Mike Bianco just completed his sixth season at Ole Miss and his return next season has been called into question after the LSU head coaching job came open. Bianco played and coached at LSU and has been rumored to be on the Tigers’ short list of candidates.
He did not address the LSU opening on Monday night.
Bianco led Ole Miss into the Super Regionals after being decimated by the major league draft following last season. The top six Ole Miss players from last season left for the big leagues leaving Bianco with a new pitching staff and holes to fill offensively.
The Rebels began this season with a 13-11 record and 1-5 in the Southeastern Conference before beginning to gel. The team went 29-11 the remainder of the season, won the Southeastern Conference Tournament and breezed through their four-team regional.
“I’m confident that they will be in a College World Series really soon,” Morris said. “That’s the level they are headed to.”
Only three players – third baseman Chris Coghlan, closer Garrett White and outfielder Alex Presley – were taken on the draft’s first day.
Add to that a highly touted recruiting class, which includes Vicksburg High product and Vicksburg Post Player of the Year Jordan Henry, and the team is on pace to make another run at Omaha next season.
“I’ll probably take a few days off and go home to Vicksburg for a few days because I haven’t been home in a while,” second baseman Justin Henry said. “In a couple weeks, I’ll get back up here, start lifting weights and go from there.”
Henry, who had two hits and drove in two runs in Monday’s finale, will be teamed with his younger brother for the first time since high school. The two were on the same Gators’ team when Justin was a senior, but Jordan saw limited playing time.
The two will become the first brothers to play for the Rebels at the same time since Jason, Justin and Josh Huisman played on the same team in 1998.
“We have a really good class coming in and I am looking forward to getting my brother up here,” Justin Henry said. “A lot of people play on the same team as their brother in high school, but this will be something a lot different.”
Justin Henry will return for his junior season after two stellar years in Oxford. He finished second on the team with a .374 average last season, and moved permanently to second base this year.
He finished fifth on the team with a .332 average and was named the team’s captain before the season started.
Ole Miss will return its top three starting pitchers – rising sophomores Brett Buckvich and Lance Lynn and rising junior Will Kline. Cody Satterwhite had a breakout freshman season and will return as one of the Rebels’ key relievers.
Logan Power, Henry, Zack Cozart and Mark Wright will provide pop for the Rebels’ offense.