Day One

The big news might have been projected first-game starter Bobby Wahl's struggles in the first inning. Or the obvious need to keep Matt Snyder healthy after a big offensive day. Or all the speed in the outfield that had been talked about.

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Those were some of the storylines from day one of preseason practice as the Ole Miss Rebels went through a two and a half hour intrasquad at Swayze Field.

Wahl was rocked a bit in the early-going. The talented sophomore right-hander had a solid fall and had established himself as the frontrunner to pitch the first game of weekend series this season. There will be an opportunity to talk to him about his performance from Friday, and we'll see what he has to say soon. His stat line ended with five runs on five hits with two walks and a strikeout, all in the first.

What Wahl said before the scrimmage was that he knew he had to continue to perform in the intrasquads to solidify any role he might have in the coaching staff's eyes.

"Coach (Mike Bianco) has said nothing's in stone right now," Wahl said. "Whoever performs best is going to get the weekend spots. So we'll see what happens."

Snyder was one who was obviously ready at the plate on Friday. In that first inning, the senior first-baseman roped one to the right field wall as Will Jamison and Blake Newalu, who had both singled, came home to score. Tanner Mathis, who had walked, was still aboard at third base, as Preston Overbey cleared the bases with a three-run shot into the home bullpen in left.

In the sixth inning, Snyder launched a three-run shot over the visiting bullpen in right field to end his day 2-for-3 with 5 RBI.

The outfield appears to be a team strength, but there is a lack of college playing experience. Starting for the one team Friday were junior Tanner Mathis (LF), along freshmen Will Jamison (CF) and Senquez Golson (RF). For the other team, it was senior Zach Kirksey (LF), and freshmen Auston Bousfield (CF) and Chase Reeves (RF).

But it's a speedy, talented, athletic group, which makes up for now a lot of whatever experience they'll obviously gain in the weeks ahead. Kirksey made one diving, if not spectacular, catch on the run for one out Friday.

Golson is a player fans are interested in since he also plays football and chose Ole Miss football and baseball over the Red Sox who drafted him.

Blake Newalu
Bruce Newman

"As we expected, very athletic but not a raw athlete. He's a baseball player," Bianco said of Golson. "Watching him swing the bat, he's just got to get more reps and improve offensively. He's already improved defensively."

"Things have been going pretty good. It takes a lot of patience," Golson said. "I've been struggling some. Hopefully I'll get things rolling sooner or later."

Senior Blake Newalu, in a battle at shortstop with sophomore Austin Anderson, had a solid day at the plate and in the field. He was 2-for-2 with two singles and a walk. Anderson, ironically, was also 2-for-2 with two singles but two walks. Newalu appears to be a bit ahead defensively, and that will be a position to watch as the preseason progresses.

Sophomore Will Allen emerged through the fall as the leader at catcher, with junior transfer Kody Sepulveda and senior Taylor Hightower close on his heels. But on this day, it was Sepulveda (2-for-3, double, single) and Hightower (2-for-3, 2 singles, 2 RBI) who had the best of it at the plate. Allen was 0-for-3.

"I've just been working hard on defense first," said Allen, who played some catcher and some first base last season. "We came out here and got after it defensively first instead of going to the cages first, which was a little bit different. Being an SEC and Division I athlete, you've got to love competition, working for it and fighting for it. We're working hard and competing."

Bianco said Allen has led the way so far.

"Will's been the leader of those guys and has done the best to this point. He's just been the most consistent. From a defensive standpoint, I think he's caught the best of everyone in all phases." Bianco said. "We want them all to improve."

Among the new pitchers, freshman Josh Laxer appeared to have the best day (2 innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout). But he was followed closely by freshman Sam Smith (2 innings, 1 hit) and sophomore transfer Aaron Greenwood (2 innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts).

The two teams' starting lineups Friday were:

Red – CF Will Jamison, SS Blake Newalu, LF Tanner Mathis, 1B Matt Snyder, 3B Preston Overbey, DH Tyler Roach, RF Senquez Golson, C Kody Sepulveda, 2B Jake Overbey.

Blue – CF Auston Bousfield, SS Austin Anderson, 2B Alex Yarbrough, C Will Allen, LF Zach Kirksey, 3B Andrew Mistone, 1B Sikes Orvis, DH John Gatlin, RF Chase Reeves.

Pitchers used by the Red team were Josh Laxer, Chris Ellis, Scott Weathersby, and Sam Smith. The Blue team pitchers were Bobby Wahl, Aaron Greenwood, Tanner Bailey, and Casey Greene.

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