The second trip is Omaha charm
TTU went 0-2 in its first appearance, but history shows return won't end the same
OMAHA, Neb. -- Hidden on the résumé of Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, beneath the five NCAA regional titles over 14 years in Oxford and his stint as an assistant coach with Team USA, you'll find five seasons under legendary coach Skip Bertman at LSU.
From 1993 to 1997, the Tigers played in the College World Series four times and won three national titles.
The 47-year-old coach, without that experience, could still say something like he did after the Rebels' 2-1, elimination-game win on Tuesday over Texas Tech.
But it wouldn't resonate in the same way.
"Everything just seems amplified -- every single pitch, every error, every walk, every base hit," the coach said as Ole Miss fans buzzed on the streets outside TD Ameritrade Park after John Gatlin's pinch-hit single with one out in the ninth inning scored Aaron Greenwood for a walk-off win.
"You can feel it in this stadium."
Time in Omaha changes coaches. It changes programs and players who return.
Bianco talks and coaches like a CWS veteran. He played catcher in the event for LSU in 1989 before the four visits as a coach.
Good thing for Ole Miss, here for the first time since 1972. When you've been absent for 42 years, it's like starting over. The Rebels need Bianco's guidance, because programs that are new to Omaha do not fare well -- for the reasons the coach explained.
Everything means more on this stage.
"No question, the more that you're here, the better understanding you have of how to be successful," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said, "not only on the field but with the ancillary things."
The Cavaliers beat TCU 3-2 on Tuesday night in an epic, 15-inning duel that matched the longest game, measured by innings, in CWS history. Catcher Nate Irving doubled to lead off the bottom of the 15th, and pinch-runner Thomas Woodruff scored on Daniel Pinero's sacrifice fly.
Virginia couldn't have won that kind of game five years ago, O'Connor said, when he made his first CWS visit as a coach. It went 1-2 in 2009, then 2-2 in 2011. This year marks the Cavs' first 2-0 start, leaving them with two days off and the inside track to the championship series.
"Our coaches start to learn how to handle the players," O'Connor said, "what decisions we need to make that are maybe different than the regular season. It's like nothing they've ever dealt with before."
Texas Tech, the lone CWS neophyte this year, was sent home on Tuesday.
In 30 seasons before this year, 26 programs appeared in Omaha for the first time. Not one won a championship. Only Georgia Tech in 1994, with Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek, played for the title.
The newbies' combined record: 23-52. Twenty of the teams won one game or fewer. Ten went 0-2.
Included in that group are LSU (1-2 in 1986), Rice (0-2 in 1997) and Florida (1-2 in 1988), schools that won seven crowns and twice finished as runner-up in the years after their slow starts.
Oregon State, technically, wasn't a newcomer when it qualified in 2005, though its 53-year drought ranked as the longest ever between visits. The Beavers went 0-2 nine years ago, then won championships in 2006 and 2007.
"You come here to win," Bianco said. "You don't come to be here for a couple days."
No question, the more that you're here, the better understanding you have of how to be successful.” -- Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor
Still, Bianco said, he recognizes the stand-alone significance of the Ole Miss victory on Tuesday. It buys his program at least another two days. For years at Ole Miss, Bianco said, he has heard so much about 1972 and the last time before Tuesday that the Rebels won a CWS game, 1969.
They've got something new to talk about now.
A natural progression exists. First, you get to Omaha. Then, you figure out how to win.
Credit Texas Tech for showing well. The Red Raiders did not fold. They played a pair of one-run games, losing on the final pitch Tuesday and after a two-run eighth inning on Sunday by TCU.
"Hopefully, they take something away from it," said Tech coach Tim Tadlock, who made it here with Oklahoma as an assistant in 2010. "Hopefully, they all do, and we learn from it, and we learn from the good times and the bad times and keep playing the game the right way."
By no means, Tadlock said, does their appearance this year mean the Red Raiders are certain a return.
"We're going to lay our heads down every night and wake up every morning, trying to get back," he said.
They'll sleep better, knowing they've taken a necessary first step.
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