Football season is over. No bowl game, but the early signing period was fun. Basketball is underway and about to start conference play this weekend. But, before you usher out 2017 and welcome in 2018, let’s take a moment to look at the Diamond Rebs, shall we?
Last season was as underwhelming as it gets. The Rebs limped to a 32-25 finish and missed a regional for the first time in five years after an early exit from Hoover in the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament. But, that season is over and a new leaf is being turned over as we speak. The monstrous 2016 class is back and in tact. And they’re ready to see what their sophomore campaigns have in store for us.
Veterans have returned and/or turned down a draft pick in order to try and restore the balance at Swayze Field after missing the postseason. Mike Bianco enters his 18th season on the top step for the Rebs and this one is sure to be interesting with a mix of youthful talent, veteran arms, and a slew of newcomers who could make an impact between the white lines very early on this year.
Now, let’s take a few moments to rehash who’s gone, who’s back and who’s new. And remember, just because we didn’t highlight a particular name, doesn’t mean they’re not important and/or good to have back.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All ratings are according to Perfect Game.
We’ll miss ya
Tate Blackman was a mainstay last season for Bianco, hitting .302, smacking 10 doubles, and driving in 30 runs. His hype was through the roof before he even got on campus and he was mostly none for his hair, but nevertheless, the Florida native was a solid middle infielder and was rewarded by the Chicago White Sox in the 13th round. go get ‘em, Tater.
Colby Bortles played third base for most of his Ole Miss career and was a solid middle lineup bat for Ole Miss. He hit just .269 last year but slapped 10 dingers, nine doubles, and drove in 42 runs. His stellar glove on the hot corner will be tough to replace, but one can hope that his 50 strikeouts will not be replaced as well. Bortles was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 22nd round.
David Parkinson held down the Friday night spot last season for Ole Miss and was nothing short of magnificent. He started all 14 weekends in 2017 and went 6-3. The Scientist was cooking up something on the bump every time he came out, dealing with location and some sneaky velocity. His Southpaw arm and bulldog mentality will be missed on Friday nights. Parky is now in the Philadelphia Phillies organization after he was drafted in the 12th round.
Andy Pagnozzi is a bit of a sore subject after being released from the team back in September, but he will still be missed. The righty from the Natural State had a stellar freshman campaign, earning Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America honors and leading the SEC in wins (8). Nozz then saw his role slow down considerably last season, only making 13 appearances on the hill and being passed over for some of the talented newcomers in last year’s No. 1 signing class.
Glad you’re back
Ryan Rolison is a damn stud. There’s no other way around it. The former All-Everything prep star from Jackson had a great freshman season in Oxford (3.06 ERA, 64 strikeouts), then followed that up with an even better stint in the Cape (6-0, 1.54 ERA). The good news is he’s back and the overwhelming favorite to be the Friday night starter. The bad news is he’s draft eligible now and will likely be gone after this season. As of December, MLB.com has him ranked as the 9th best prospect in the 2018 class. Enjoy Rolo while you can, y’all.
James McArthur is back and more than likely going to be one of the other weekend starters. He had his ups and downs last season, throwing 64 innings and sporting a gross 4.73 earned run average. His freshman year was impressive in the midweek and last year was a weird one for Big Tex, he should be fine though with an improved offense (hopefully) and stability around him in the bullpen.
Nick Fortes was at times the forgotten one with Cooper Johnson coming to town. But Ole 40 shut the haters up real quick with a solid campaign as a utility man for Bianco’s club. He came into his own at the plate and led the team with a .319 average and he even slapped five dingers. He should spell Johnson behind the dish this year to give the youngin some rest but until then, I expect him to be the opening day starter at first base.
Dallas Woolfolk is back so watch your ass, Southeastern Conference. Wolf was damn near lights out in 2017, rocking a cool 2.15 ERA, snagging 12 saves, and striking out 41 in 37.2 innings. Opponents only hit .200 against the Mississippi native and Ole Miss will need that and then some this season to hold folks at bay in the later innings. Dallas and Will Stokes will be tasked with shutting shit down to lock down W’s this year and there may not be a better bullpen duo in the country.
Brady Feigl is back and this is his money year. The Human Torch has potential through the daggum roof with an arsenal of nasty stuff that any pitcher would want at their disposal. But, after moving from the bullpen to the weekend rotation then back to the bullpen, he is searching for some consistency on the mound AND on the lineup card. He was electric at times last season and now that he is working primarily in a starting role, he could come into his own and lock down a weekend spot.
Other key returnees include Ryan Olenek, Will Golsan, Cooper Johnson, Will Stokes, Thomas Dillard, Will Ethridge, and Tim Rowe
Tim Elko was a big-time get for Bianco and assistant Carl Lafferty in the 2017 class. The No. 69 overall player in the country is a big kid (6’4, 225-pounds) who will look to lock down either first base when Fortes is behind the plate and/or the designated hitter spot.
The Under Armour All-American is a big, athletic kid who may not be an every day player, but he will get some at-bats because of the power potential and the skill set.
Jordan Fowler comes in to Oxford as the No. 216 overall player in the 2017 class and will get plenty of innings on the bump for the Rebels this year. The lefty from Tennessee is a 6’2 dealer who chose the Rebs over Vanderbilt and was the No. 27 overall LHP in the class.
Coming from the left side could give him a leg up on a midweek role, but I think he will be used in spot situations because we know how Mike loves his matchups.
Colston Gillespie is another super-talented newcomer with a frame built for the SEC (6’4, 215). He played catcher in high school in Georgia but will more than likely play multiple roles at Ole Miss.
He could end up in a corner outfield role if the bat projects to the college level or he could be the catcher in waiting once Coop heads off to the show. The No. 20 catcher in the country is a switch-hitter who has gap-to-gap power and 6.99 60-yard dash speed. That package doesn’t come around often.
Tyler Keenan is a hoss himself. Speaking of SEC size, the 6’3, 235-pounder could be your Colby Bortles replacement, literally and figuratively. The No. 13 third basemen in the country picked Ole Miss over big-time offers from Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, and Vanderbilt and is expected to play early and often in my opinion. The North Carolina swings it from the left side and has a nice, short swing that could help him transition from high school to SEC-level competition.
Austin Miller could be this year’s Parkinson transfer phenom. The 6’7 righty from Kirkwood Community College held teammates under .200 at the plate during fall ball and could be a reliever candidate because of his strikeout potential and daunting stature on the mound.
Anthony Servideo is the heir apparent to Tater at second and let’s hope he’s got the lettuce to fill his cap. The Florida native was a top 300 player out of high school and the No. 48 short stop, but his home is at second next to returning starter Grae Kessinger. Be Kind Rewind can really pick them up and put them down (6.71 60-yard dash) and he also flashes a nice bat from the left side (.348 average this fall) and should be a big-play dude with the leather.
Other newcomers include Matthew Myers, Carl Gindl, Emanuel Fernandez, Tanner Smith, and Max Cioffi