Ole Miss Baseball head coach Mike Bianco was named the 2020 National Coach of the Year by Collegiate Baseball on Tuesday, marking the first time in program history that a head coach has received the honor.
Congratulations to Ole Miss Head Coach Mike Bianco who is Collegiate Baseball’s National Coach of The Year. He led the Rebels to a 16-1 record before the season was halted. For full release, go to: https://t.co/Ilgke2nvTB@OleMissBSB @SEC @SECNetwork pic.twitter.com/4VJzp5grYQ— Collegiate Baseball (@CBNewspaper) June 9, 2020
Bianco led the Rebels to a nation’s best 16-1 record before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the season early and abruptly. After Ole Miss and 2016’s No. 1 recruiting class lost to Arkansas in the 2019 NCAA Super Regional and failed to reach the College World Series, interim Athletic Director Keith Carter chose not to rollover Bianco’s contract.
Entering 2020, Bianco, who was coaching on the last year of his contract for the first time in his career, took over a roster with seven new faces and only one fielder in the same position as the year prior.
Fellow Southeastern Conference coaches picked Ole Miss to finish sixth in the West (second to last) in the pre-season poll, but the record prior to conference play did not suggest such a finish. The Rebels opened the year with a hard-fought loss to preseason No. 1 Louisville on night one, but never lost again. Despite the youth and inexperience, the team battled for a backend opening weekend series win and then won 16 straight games, good for the nation’s longest winning streak at the shutdown. It was fun.
When the LSU Tigers were pulled off the busses before heading to Oxford for the first weekend of conference play and Coronavirus shut down the season, Ole Miss was crushing the ball. Bianco’s squad led the nation with 37 home runs, sat third in scoring with 9.5 runs per game and third in slugging percentage with .549.
On the bump, the pitching staff was exceptional with a 2.92 ERA, 179 strikeouts and only 51 walks. Starters Doug Nikhazy, Derek Diamond and Gunnar Hoglund posted 2.35, 3.48 and 1.16 ERAs respectively, which is about as good as a weekend rotation can get.
The 2020 Ole Miss team was off to an unprecedentedly dominant start. While we will never know if they could have kept it up throughout conference play, the Rebels did not show signs of stopping. After such a strong first 17 games, Carter has announced that he is negotiating a contract with Bianco that will keep the 19-year skipper and 2020 National Coach of the Year as the head man at Swayze Field.
The vast majority of talent will return in 2021, and the expectations will be as high as they ever were. Only time will tell how good Ole Miss can be.