The COVID-19 pandemic might’ve put a halt to spring sports, but we can still live through our baseball boys who were off to a 16-1 start. Heading into SEC play, the Rebs were winners of 16 in row after an opening loss to a Louisville team that was ranked No. 2 and had a record of 13-4 at the time of the cancellation.
Mike Bianco’s 2020 club went on the road and defeated the likes of East Carolina (No. 5 RPI), Indiana (No. 39 RPI), and Louisiana-Monroe (No. 69), twice. The Rebs also swept Xavier (No. 23 RPI) at home and was sitting at No. 4 heading into a favorable opening SEC series against LSU.
The big number for 2020, though, was the winning streak. 16 in a row is not only impressive but Is a testament to the consistency on the mound while the lineup found itself. Ole Miss was barely hitting .230 as a team a few weeks ago but going into games 17, 18, and 19, the Rebs were hitting .294(!), slugging .549, and had already belted 37 home runs.
Sure, we may never know what would have become of this squad, but there aren’t any sports right now so we’re going to do the proper thing:
COMPARE THEM TO OTHER GREATS!
In this piece, we will take a look at six of the best teams to ever suit up in the red and blue and how they started prior to SEC play and where they ended up.
2005 — 15-3
The team that started it all were winners of 15 of their first 18, taking a 10-game win streak into SEC play 15 years ago. Later that summer, Ole Miss fought tooth and nail with the eventual national champion Texas Longhorns in one of the most raucous postseason environments at Swayze Field.
Ole Miss was led by Brian Pettway (.387, 21 HR, 66 RBI), Stephen Head (.333, 18 HR, 66 RBI), Chris Coghlan (.357, 6 HR, 57 RBI), and Mark Wright (.305, 13 HR, 51 RBI) at the plate, but the team was dangerous from top-to-bottom. Others like Justin Henry (.381), Cooper Osteen (.310), and Miles Franklin (.306) helped this team hit at a ridiculous .321 clip.
On the mound, Bianco’s bunch boasted a lethal rotation of Mark Holliman, Matt Maloney, Anthony Cupps, and Eric Fowler. Those four combined to go 32-12 and had a 3.78 earned run average which, in that day and age, was respectable. But, the real weapon for the Rebels that year was Head as a closer. The two-way All-American was 7-3 in 23 appearances with eight saves, was a National Freshman of the Year, SEC Player of the Year, and is the program’s only three-time All-American.
Augie Garrido’s bunch won it all on their way to a 56-16 record. The Longhorns were led by JB Cox, Taylor Teagarden, Seth Johnston, and Buck Cody who were all drafted in the first 10 rounds.
Finished 48-20 (18-12 SEC) and lost to Texas in NCAA Super Regional
2006 — 11-6
It was a slow start a year later for the Rebs, but this team found their stride and then some late in conference play, winning it all in Hoover. But, it was another year of heartbreak for the Rebel faithful, coming up one game short for Omaha when a loaded Miami team spoiled the Swayze party.
Bianco had himself another group a win away from the College World Series. The Rebs were once again strong at the dish (.309 team average) led by Coghlan (.350, 5 HR, 50 RBI), Wright (.305, 16 HR, 79 RBI), Zack Cozart (.338, 10 HR, 64 RBI), CJ Ketchum (.337, 36 RBI), and Alex Presley (.336, 6 HR, 61 RBI). The tournament champs were deep at the plate, having other notable names like Justin Brashear (12 HR, 42 RBI), Logan Power (23 RBI), and Jon-Jon Hancock (33 RBI).
On the mound, Brett Bukvich and Lance Lynn were the heavy hitters, combining to win 13 games and have a WHIP of 1.56 to go along with 150 strikeouts in 177.1 innings. Garrett White was the stopper on the back-end (11 saves) and Will Kline notched 76 strikeouts in 68 innings and himself sported a 1.34 WHIP.
The Hurricanes finished 42-24 and made their 21st appearance in Omaha, going 1-2. Jim Morris’ club had five dudes drafted in the first 10 rounds. Chris Perez, Jon Jay, Enrique Orta, Thomas Giles, and Graham Taylor all went in the first 305 picks. Not to mention the squad also had names like Daniel Valencia, Eddy Rodriguez, Scott Maine, and freshmen Yonder Alonso and Jemile Weeks.
No shame in losing in a winner-take-all to that bunch.
Regardless, we’ll always have this:
Finished 44-22 (17-13) and lost to Miami in NCAA Super Regional
2009 — 9-3
Probably the toughest one to discuss of them all, this team played just 12 games before SEC play, but arguably had the easiest Super Regional when comparing them to the other four teams on this list.
Mike Bianco’s only team to win a regular season SEC title was strong all over the field. They hit .310 as a team and had a 1.39 team WHIP. Golden Spikes Award runner-up Drew Pomeranz is the name to know here. The power lefty went 8-4 as a sophomore, striking out 124 in just 95.1 innings. The counter punch to Pomeranz’s haymaker was Phillip Irwin. The Memphis native won eight games and had an impressive WHIP himself (1.45).
But the real story was Scott Bittle. This wasn’t The Bittler’s cheat code self, but he still had a team-best 1.09 WHIP, struck out 68 in 45.2 innings, and allowed just one homer.
At the plate, Jordan Henry was a Tour de Force, hitting .343, stealing 38 bases, and driving in 31 runs. Power hitters like Power (7 HR, 58 RBI) and Matt Smith (8 HR, 59 RBI) did the heavy-lifting while Tim Ferguson (.358, .900 OPS) and Zach Miller (.341, 38 RBI, .943 OPS) were table-setters.
We all know how it ended. The Rebs blew a 1-0 lead in a Super Regional, losing to Brian O’Connor’s 49-15 Virginia Cavaliers. They went 1-2 in Omaha. I don’t want to talk about it. Sure they won a ton of games, but the Rebs had this one at home and couldn’t get it done.
Finished 44-20 (20-10) and lost to Virginia in NCAA Super Regional
2014 — 16-2
The Ones That Wouldn’t Go Away.
In a good way.
Bianco’s first and only Omaha team was relentless as fuck. As they entered SEC play, the Rebs were winners of 11-of-12 games and took the first one from the top-ranked Gamecocks on the road, running their record to 17-2 before losing the next two. But this team had their back against the wall plenty and just wouldn’t give in.
Chris Ellis (3rd round), Auston Bousfield (5th round), Austin Anderson (9th round), Josh Laxer (9th round), Braxton Lee (12th round), and Will Allen (13th round) were all taken in the first 400 picks. Hell, the best player on the team, Christian Trent, was taken in the 29th round.
The team hit .297 and despite hitting just 40 home runs, were dangerous from top-to-bottom. Allen hit .355 in conference play and led the way for Ole Miss with the bat, Holt Perdzock and Brantley Bell were dangerous in designated hitter and pinch hit situations, Sikes Orvis led the #WHISKEYANDMEAT charge slapping 14 dingers and driving in 53 runs, and freshman Errol Robinson hit .294 and held it down at shortstop.
On the mound, starters Ellis and Trent were as good a one-two punch that Ole Miss has ever had. Ellis went 10-3 and Trent went 9-0, but the bullpen was where this Rebel team really slapped people in the face. Aaron Greenwood and Scott Weathersby really exploded on the scene, tossing 82.1 combined innings, striking out 86 in that span, and having a duo WHIP of 0.96(!).
Sure they didn’t win it all, but this squad made it to TD Ameritrade and ended the season third overall. No shame in that at all.
Finished 48-21 (19-11) and lost to Virginia in College World Series Semifinals
2016 — 17-1
One game better than this year’s team, the Rebels were riding a 12-game win streak going into conference play. But, like their predecessors, they failed to reach the party in Omaha, going 0-2 in the Oxford regional.
But, the team had some staying power. Despite a .277 team average, there were some loud bats in this lineup. Henri Lartigue (.353, 31 RBI, .878 OPS), JB Woodman (.323, 14 HR, .990 OPS), and Tate Blackman (.322, 38 RBI, .827 OPS) were at the top of most box scores with Colby Bortles (8 HR, .854 OPS) and Will Golsan (31 RBI, .722 OPS) close behind.
On the bump, Will Stokes (1.02 WHIP, 7 SV), Andy Pagnozzi (8-2, 1.08 WHIP), Wyatt Short (1.19 WHIP, 11 SV), and Brady Bramlett (8-3, 96 K, 82 IP) were the names to know. Freshmen Brady Feigl (4-0, 1.43 WHIP) and James McArthur (6-1, 61 K, 61.1 IP) did their parts as well.
But, unfortunately, this team was defined by the absolute bummer of losing to Utah and Tulane at home to end the season.
Finished 43-19 (18-12) and lost to Utah and Tulane in NCAA Regional
2018 — 17-1
This might be the one team that stacks up the best against the 2020 squad. They had everything. All three weekend starters were taken in the first 12 rounds, .300 team average, 79 total home runs, and a team WHIP of 1.34(!!).
Alas, they ran into arguably the best and most dangerous two-seed in the entire field.
The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles won 53 games, boasted a lineup that ALL hit over .300, and hit an insane 135 home runs for the season. TTU took it to Ole Miss at Swayze Field, ending the Rebels’ season on what is now known as “Black Monday”.
But, this No. 4 overall seed and SEC Tournament Champs Ole Miss team was special nonetheless. Thomas Dillard’s OPS of 1.002 looks like a typo and Nick Fortes, Chase Cockrell, Tyler Keenan, Grae Kessinger, and Cole Zabowski combined for 47 dingers. Ryan Olenek hit .350 and did just about everything and Golsan drove in 48 runs as a bottom of the lineup menace.
On the mound, Ryan Rolison won 10 games and struck out 120 in 97.1 innings and a legend was born when former walk-on turned flamethrower Parker Caracci notched 10 saves and punched out 73 in 48 innings. Will Ethridge (1.24 WHIP) and Greer Holston (1.36 WHIP) were reliable arms out of the pen and Jordan Fowler went undefeated in the midweek.
This was the team that was built to do it. They should have gone to Omaha and given the field a run for the title. But, a dangerous OVC team had other plans and the rest is history. The bad kind.
Finished 48-17 (18-12) and lost to Tennessee Tech (twice) in NCAA Regional
I know it’s hard to compare 17 games to a complete season, but cut us some slack here, there’s nothing going on right now.
Where do you think this 2020 team stacks up against the greats?
Is there a team that we forgot?
Share your thoughts, opinions, cuss words, and hot taeks in the comments.