Class Set

There's something about this incoming class of baseball Rebels. There's talent, no doubt, but there's more.

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Monday was no ordinary day for the Ole Miss baseball program. Sure, football was a huge benefactor when Senquez Golson chose to return from Boston to try to become a two-sport star at Ole Miss. Now we'll get an opportunity to see if he can, and on Monday that was all anybody was looking for him to do.

Anybody who was tied with Ole Miss, that is. In Boston, they had other plans for the talented Mississippian. But the 11 p.m. CT deadline came and went, and those in Rebel red and blue let out a collective sigh of relief, and likely a whoop and a hollar or two.

Golson wasn't the only one who spurned the play for pay ranks of America's diamonds Monday and stuck with a commitment to Ole Miss. There could have been others who turned pro. Some who, like Golson, were already in Oxford, and others who will now be here this week.

After fifth-rounder Michael Reed (Brewers) and 27th-rounder Ryan Hornback (Pirates) signed earlier this summer, the main concerns for Ole Miss were, in no certain order, Golson, junior transfer LHP Dylan Chavez, and freshman infielder Jake Overbey.

Dylan Chavez
File Photo

In my conversations with Chavez - mature, polite, and direct - I sensed an Ole Miss lean throughout. He was non-committal, but I could sense something.

Chavez was a 32nd-rounder drafted by the Twins, but he is a juco transfer a long way from home. So there was concern from Ole Miss that he might not show. But he is traveling toward Oxford from California with his father as you read this, and he will be meeting his new Rebel teammates for the first time on Wednesday.

"Never been more excited in my life," Chavez said via text to me Monday just after the 11 p.m. CT deadline. "Going to be a special year."

It certainly has a chance to be now that so much young talent will be practicing on Swayze Field throughout the coming months, joining a solid group of returning players.

I hadn't talked to Overbey in a few weeks. But a tenth rounder to a big market ballclub like Philadelphia is a concern. Having his brother, Preston, at Ole Miss already was at least one factor in the Rebs' favor. Jake, an all-star quarterback who was Mr. Football in Tennessee twice in his school's classification, will compete for an infield spot along with several talented Rebels who return.

There were others who were drafted. But all of them, save Reed and Hornback, never seemed to slide toward turning pro.

Austin Knight, first-team all-state catcher from powerhouse Sumrall High School, was added to the class over the summer. He's a terrific addition to a strong group of players. His dad is head coach of the high school program that's won four straight state titles, and Knight gives the Rebels talented stability at catcher for several years.

Then, as you recall, we got to meet some of them collectively a couple of weeks ago. The Inseparable Six, as we called them, gathered 'round a conference table in the UMAA building to talk some baseball with us.

If you aren't already familiar with their names, you will be. Hawtin Buchanan, Josh Laxer, and Chris Ellis, all right-handers who pitch. Chase Reeves, who plays outfield and a lefty who can pitch. Sikes Orvis, who can play some first and third, steal some bases, and hit the ball out of the park. Auston Bousfield, an outfielder with solid credentials, and like Orvis, from the Orlando Scorpion tree of players.

Hawtin Buchanan
File Photo

Will Jamison, a speedy outfielder who was also a quality football player in high school. Sam Smith, a talented right-handed pitcher from powerhouse Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La. John Gatlin, a shortstop from Tupelo High and Itawamba Community College. Tyler Roach, a first baseman/outfielder from Northwest Shoals CC in Alabama.

And certainly one of the most important members of this year's class of all. Talented right-handed pitcher Casey Mulholland, who we've talked about for more than two years since he was supposed to be here last year. But Tommy John surgery and rehab delayed the incoming freshman for a year. He will be here this week, and he will compete for a starting spot in the rotation this fall and next spring.

So why do I believe this class can be that special?

For one thing, I've seen a lot of them through the years to be able to compare them. They remind me of a couple of classes during the early Mike Bianco years when, as they grew up, were a part of hosting Super Regionals, coming just a win from Omaha on more than one occasion. Those same classes now have several of their members in the Majors. You've watched them all summer.

And the bond this incoming group already has can't be ignored. The ones coming in this week will step into a positive team chemistry that is already obvious.

There's a lot of leadership potential among them. Some have stepped up already. Like Buchanan's tweet late Monday night. It might have come from any in this group.

"No draft worries for any #RebsBSB guys anymore, all we have to focus on is #omaha2012. Time to get to work boys #cantwait."

If you don't tweet or aren't familiar with it, you're bound to have gotten the message he was sending.

It's a message this new class of Ole Miss baseball players seems to send every day. It appears to be what they are all about.

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