Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Super Regional Fever

A fourth Super Regional in five years? The third one in Oxford in five years? Pass the kool-aid and save me a seat on the bandwagon. If you are one of the few regular readers here, you know that while I follow college baseball, although not very close, I cannot emotionally invest myself in it. Football season (and basketball season to a smaller degree) is such a drain on my core that I have to shut down emotionally for at least four months in order to prepare for the upcoming fall. If I allowed baseball season to affect me even the way basketball does, I’d have some sort of mental breakdown in October where I disappear into the woods and live off of berries and tree bark for three months. I have to take some time off. Plus, it’s hard to really get into a sport that receives almost zero national exposure and in a good year breaks even financially.

However, when postseason play rolls around, it’s any good Rebels duty to get swept up in the excitement and become emotionally invested in the baseball team. Before you begin screaming bandwagon fan, which I most certainly am, I kept up with this team (at least how they did in each SEC series) and earlier I tried to name as many players as I could. I came up with 18, most of which were pitchers. I have problems naming the other starters and their positions (seriously, how long has Logan Power been at Ole Miss?) and couldn’t give you the batting order if my life depended on it. But you better believe I’ll be sweating my ass off and getting horribly sunburned in the outfield this weekend.

So with all that said, while everyone else is offering their expert opinions on the Ole Miss/Virginia match-up, I give you everything you need to know about the Super Regional from the guy who followed Ole Miss this season, but not that closely, and just jumped on the bandwagon (hell, I might even try to drive the thing) and is now probably way too emotionally invested in the outcome.

Virginia: Champs of the ACC Tournament, forgetting that basketball exists. I mentioned a month or two ago that I was pretty certain I did not see a single highlight of Virginia basketball during the season. I still think that’s pretty amazing. A program that at one time had some really good teams, plays in a basketball-oriented conference and in recent years produced the occasional feisty team just vanished. Very weird.

As for the baseball team, I’ve read they’re built much like Ole Miss. Good hitters, not a lot of power and strong pitching. And their pitching leads the nation in ERA, which could be a result of playing in the ACC, which could be a weak baseball conference. I have no idea. Just a guess. I’m not sure it’s possible for someone to know less about a baseball team and conference than I do about Virginia and the ACC. But I still know more about the baseball team than the basketball team.

Ole Miss: SEC regular season champs, errr, co-champs, hoping to not choke away another shot at Omaha. The last time Ole Miss was in a Super Regional I wrote this. It documented the collapse in game one against Arizona State and spent some time on the state of complete misery that was Ole Miss athletics. Just reading the part about Ed Orgeron reminded me how happy I am that he’s gone (And I forgot about the defensive first baseman thing we did that season. One of the dumbest ideas ever). Anyway, that first game could be classified as not good times.

And the in two Oxford Super Regionals before that, the Rebels won both first games against Texas and Miami and then lost the next two to lose the series. The point is that the Rebels have not fared well in these games. I don’t know if it’s the pressure, the teams weren’t as good as we thought they were or that “Ole Miss” stitched across each jersey. Whatever it is, things just don’t go well. So in addition to overcoming a good Virginia team, Ole Miss will be battling the 800-pound gorilla on their backs.

Intangibles is just a made-up word like Eskimo and San Diegans. Coming into the weekend, Virginia has to feel good about themselves. They won the ACC Tournament, then went to UC Irvine, won the regional there and in the process beat the unbeatable Stephen Strasburg of San Diego State. So I’m guessing they’re not sweating a potential appearance by Brett Bukvich.

But, I doubt Virginia has played in an environment like they’ll see on Friday. Close to 12 thousand sweaty, jacked-up and alcohol-fueled fans ready for the elusive breakthrough to Omaha will be packed around Swayze Field. I don’t see it affecting them the entire series, but one would think Friday might be a little overwhelming for them.

As for Ole Miss, they’ll have the home crowd behind them, which will be good as long as things don’t sour and help create a sense of impending doom. The team is coming off what has to be considered the most clutch and best pitching performance in the history of Ole Miss baseball. Normally, I wouldn’t put too much stock in winning the final regional game. Yes, it can be a momentum builder, but often winning one of those is more of a relief than anything else, especially when you’re the one seed. But how the Rebels won absolutely created a new sense of confidence within the team. Drew Pomeranz set an example not just for the pitchers, but also for everyone else by sacking up and doing what needed to be done in a crucial situation. Hopefully, when it’s someone else’s turn this weekend, they’ll respond as he did.

Predictions are always right except when they’re wrong. I thought about this for a fairly long time. Well, more like 11 minutes, but when I look at everything…ah, screw it. Ole Miss sweeps.

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