Bianco, Lemonis glad to keep championship in Mississippi

·2 min read

Jun. 27—OMAHA — A lot of people were happy for Ole Miss baseball when the Rebels swept the super regional at Southern Miss.

Some of those people wear maroon.

Two people Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco heard from in a text message soon after 10-0 and 5-0 wins over the Golden Eagles were Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis and his hitting coach Jake Gautreau.

Bianco was asked by a young reporter from Sports Illustrated Kids on Sunday what impact he thought the Rebels' national championship might have on the Mississippi State rivalry now that Ole Miss has unseated MSU as the defending national champion.

"I will say this, and this seems maybe too nice for your question, but when we won in Hattiesburg at the super regional I got a text from Chris Lemonis, the head coach at Mississippi State, and from coach Gautreau, their hitting coach: Congratulations, good luck in Omaha," Bianco said.

His response was, "Thanks so much. I really appreciate it, and we're hoping to keep the trophy in Mississippi."

It was an exchange that contradicts the sentiment many people have in the rivalry.

Fact of the matter is these coaches respect this rivalry.

They understand what it means to their fans.

They also respect the game and understand how hard it is to win period against any opponent.

They know what is required in hours of recruiting then off-season training, preseason practice and game-week preparation.

The calendar never rests.

Most coaches respect the game and therefore respect each other's significant achievements.

Bianco offered a tip of the cap to Lemonis in his response, and the championship does in fact remain in Mississippi.

We know baseball is a very good product in our state, but the championships further validate both programs on the national level.

It's one thing to be thought of as nationally prominent. It's another to have a seat at the champions table.

Bianco very well may have been terminated had he not made it to Omaha.

Now he and Lemonis have done what some of the biggest coaching names in college baseball have not, Jim Schlossnagle, Dan McDonnell and Dave Van Horn among them.

These Mississippi coaches have won championships without the recruiting advantages that exist with tuition assistance programs in some other states.

They've won them with the lowest state population in the SEC's geographic footprint and by sharing that lower number with a very consistent mid-major program led by Scott Berry at Southern Miss.

For the last two summers Mississippians have spent undesignated funds and packed into Charles Schwab Field.

They've overwhelmed opposing fan bases and have watched their teams dogpile on the infield amid falling confetti.

It's good for Mississippi even if it steps away from the rivalry narrative for a bit.

PARRISH ALFORD is the college sports editor and columnist for the Daily Journal. Contact him at parrish.alford@journalinc.com.