The 2015 Ole Miss baseball season begins this Friday with a weekend series against William & Mary. Each day this week, we'll be previewing a different position group.
Omaha was a blast. A complete and utter euphoria of great college baseball filled with the high drama games that seemed to follow the Rebs all season long. What will it take to return to Omaha? It starts with an experienced infield that dominates the early part of the lineup. The Rebel basemen looks to return some familiar names, with two returning starters at the same position as last year: Sikes Orvis at first and Errol Robinson at short. New to the infield, but not to our hearts, is third baseman Colby Bortles. At second you'll see true frosh Tate Blackman.
Here's what each brings to the table.
1B: Sikes "Big Bad Beacon" Orvis
2014 stats: .294 avg., .540 slugging, .397 OBP
There's not much to say about the Sikes that you don't already know. He's big, strong and swings for the fences. I've seen him around town the past year and each time I just can't help but swoon at the size of his biceps. Here's hoping he's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder and something to prove after being snubbed in the MLB draft. He's been slotted to bat third in the lineup with Bortles backing him up in the cleanup spot, which should deter opponents from pitching around Sikes.
What his walkout song should be: "Big Poppa" - Notorious B.I.G.
2B: Tate "FRESH MEAT" Blackman
As much as I'll miss hearing the announcer say "Preston Oooooooverbeeeey," I'm super excited to see Tate take the field at 2B. Tate is a highly touted true freshman out of Florida that Ole Miss was able to snag from the draft when his offers didn't match his goals. No tears shed here Tate; we are super excited to have you. I'd give way more insight on Tate if I had a sit down interview with him and Coach Bianco but.....yea, I don't exactly have that press pass I've applied for year after year. Check out Austin Miller and Chase Parham's write ups on Tate here and here. I'm sure they won't mind the page views.
What his walkout song should be: "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" - New Kids on the Block
SS: Errol "Baby's Bottom Operator" Robinson
2014 stats: .294 avg., .327 slugging, .371 OBP
The Ole Miss fan favorite is back and looks to further improve his game as a sophomore. After a couple plays by Errol at this past weekend's scrimmage, my dad randomly commented on how extremely soft and smooth his hands are at the position. Under new hitting coach Mike Clement*, Errol's average will hopefully see a significant increase while keeping the keen eye at the plate that he was known for last year (his 24 walks last season are second most of returning starters behind Sikes).
What his walkout song should be: "Smooth Criminal" - Michael Jackson
3B: Colby "Some NFL QB's Brother" Bortles
2014 stats, 68 at bats: .250 avg., .397 slugging, .386 OBP
If you haven't seen him lately, Bortles is big. At 6'5, 245 pounds, he doesn't look like he belongs in the infield, but obviously Mike has seen enough of him through practice and the Fall to give him the nod at third. In a recent interview, Bianco said he feels that Bortles is the leading candidate on the team to have a breakout year. Let's hope so since he his struggles at the plate last season led to 21 strikeouts.
What his walkout song should be: "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" - The Hollies
*Regarding Mike Clement, it seems like the bats have improved this season. Bianco remarked that last year during fall practices, the Rebs only hit seven long balls compared to this year's fall practices of 27 dingers. Now some of that might be due to the new ball that is supposed to be more hitter friendly, but Bianco also remarked that he feels the team is a stronger hitting squad than it was at the beginning of last season.
A note from smeargle
Tomorrow look for my take on the outfield. After that, I'll be around all baseball season, bringing you SCORCHING HOT SPROTS TAKES of blazing quality. I'll be doing mostly the midweek recap spots, but should be doing live tweetin' for every single home game so shoot me a follow @smeargleRCR for desperate attempts at humor, $1 hot dog night eating contests and egregious misspellings of "INSERT NUMBER MOAR OWTS". See y'all at Swayze!