Utility man: Bianco finds niché as Tigers’ jack-of-all-trades
There’s a lot of college baseball left to be played.
But the game can go ahead and shut down the social media wars right now.
The Bianco family, its allegiances torn between LSU and Ole Miss, has done it to perfection.
The rest can all log off and go home, lol.
It started when Drew Bianco, LSU’s Swiss army knife, played a big role in the Tigers’ surprise win over Oregon late Monday night to propel them to the NCAA super regional round at Tennessee.
His dad, Mike, a former Tiger now the longtime head coach at Ole Miss, was able to watch after his Rebels secured their own spot in the Arizona super regional earlier that afternoon.
So after LSU won, the dad, of course, tweeted out his son:
“I will be busy in Tucson but mom will see you in Knoxville. #ProudDad.”
To which Drew tweeted back:
“It’s OK … I’ll see you in Omaha Dad!!!”
After getting back to Baton Rouge, Drew explained, “That would be a good family vacation, no doubt.”
That may also be the suddenly rejuvenated Tigers getting a little ahead of themselves. But after what happened in Eugene, who knows?
Whatever transpires, there’s a good chance Bianco will be in the middle of it, as he was Monday night, with a two-run homer and another run he produced by circling the bases after a single without benefit of a teammate putting another ball in play. Simple — stolen base, wild pitch, wild pitch.
“That’s typical Drew,” Mainieri said. “He always seems to be in the middle of action. And don’t forget the diving catch he made to save a run.”
His value to the Tigers belies his numbers — with perhaps the stereotypical “coach’s son” approach.
Head coach Paul Mainieri can’t keep him out of the lineup — even though, since he couldn’t promise him a starting spot, it was the head coach’s suggestion that made Drew take a sniff at the NCAA transfer portal in the offseason.
Ole Miss wasn’t an option — his mom and dad decided long ago that they didn’t want son playing for dad.
In the end, he decided against leaving for anywhere and returned to LSU, not knowing where he’d play.
“I can play all eight if I have to,” Drew said. “That’s why I’ve gotten a lot of chances. I take a lot of pride in it.”
That’s part of what makes him so valuable, and maybe not surprisingly in this baseball age of travel-ball specialization, he was also a high school fullback and a pretty good basketball player.
LSU’s best lineup is probably with him at second base, but with Giovanni DiGiacomo’s hamstring acting up again, he’s now in center field, and excelling.
Never mind he’d never played the outfield before.
“Right from the start I just thought he got great jumps and angles on the ball,” Mainieri said. “I love him in center field.”
Mainieri also calls Drew the team’s best base runner — not to be confused with base stealer.
“Instincts and tough competitiveness,” Mainieri said in describing Drew. “Finds a way to get the job done. It’s in his DNA, a pretty hardnosed guy.”
“If that guy could just hit .280, he’d be considered one of best players in the league,” Mainieri said, “because he does all the other things. But he’s been a .220 hitter, unfortunately (up to .234 after a hot regional). But he still has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark (seven dingers), has the ability to hit a tworun double, like he did Saturday (in an elimination game against Central Connecticut State). He just hasn’t been a real consistent hitter over the long haul.”
“But Drew usually gets his money’s worth. He steps up and takes his cuts. I can take that, being aggressive, not being tentative.”
Maybe it was the way he was brought up — if not necessarily the way he was coached at home.
Dad’s day job kept him from seeing a ton of Drew’s games growing up.
“He doesn’t really coach me,” Drew said, adding that Mike, of course, keeps close tabs on LSU box scores. “He’s just a dad. He’s like, if I went 0-fer, he’d text me ‘keep fighting.’
“He doesn’t really coach me, and I’m glad he doesn’t. I get enough coaching here … I don’t want to have him have to call me. He’d probably (tick) me off.”
But he wouldn’t mind that family reunion in Omaha for Father’s Day.k
Drew Bianco considered leaving LSU because he didn’t think there was a place for him. Oddly enough he found his role, playing anywhere head coach Paul Mainieri needed him.