Early this week the SEC baseball award winners will be announced, selected by a vote of league coaches.
Mike Bianco and Kevin O’Sullivan, who guided Ole Miss and Florida to the division championships, will be the top two choices for coach of the year.
O’Sullivan’s team won the SEC overall title by two games, and his roster includes 15 true freshmen. Regardless of talent level all newcomers face an acclimation period when they reach college baseball, and getting them to perform at a championship level is no simple task.
SEC coaches, however, had an idea the Gators would be pretty good when they picked them third in the Eastern Division.
By that measure, the Rebels’ surge has been more of a surprise. If the voting criteria is who won the most SEC games, O’Sullivan will be the winner. If the criteria is who did more with less, Bianco will be the winner.
Ole Miss was picked sixth in the division and finished 19-11 in conference play.
Florida was ranked in the top 25 of preseason polls while Ole Miss was not.
The Rebels hit .277 last year compared to .304 now. With games still to play they have surpassed last season’s totals in double, triples and home runs and did that some time ago.
Pitching has also improved from last year’s team ERA of 3.07 to the current ERA of 2.73.
Bianco and his staff have gotten veterans who were not big producers a year ago to contribute at high levels – Auston Bousfield, Will Allen, Sikes Orvis, Chris Ellis. They’ve also gotten big contributions from newcomers in key roles – Christian Trent, Braxton Lee, J.B. Woodman.
Florida will be a national seed, Ole Miss may be as well.
There are two strong candidates for SEC coaches to consider.