One in the Books

Mike Bianco said the Ole Miss baseball team picked up where it left off in late October, if the first weekend of preseason practice was any indication.

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"It was similar to the fall in the sense that the energy was there and guys played hard," he said Sunday after a routine practice day which followed two scrimmages on Friday and Saturday. "That's a good thing. But we've got a ways to go. We made some mistakes, and we have things we need to improve. But we're getting better. Physically a lot of guys look better, especially the younger guys."

Bianco had some praise for a handful of the newer pitchers on staff, some of them who hadn't been heard from much, even in the fall.

"Pitching-wise, Sam Smith, Dylan Chavez, and Casey Mulholland pitched the best since they've been here," he said. "Mike Mayers hit 94 on the gun. He was like 91-94 his first inning. You're starting to see some guys take a step forward. Again, it's the first week, and we don't want to get overly excited. We're in good shape and moving forward, and that's all you can do."

Bianco expanded his comments on the trio.

"Chavez has gained about 15 pounds since he's been here," he said of the junior college transfer left-hander. "He was like 87-90 or 91 with an 80 mile an hour slider. That's the best stuff since he's been here. That's the way he threw in junior college.

"With Casey it's a little harder to gauge him just because of the rehab (from Tommy John surgery) and everything like that. He threw harder than he threw in the fall with a harder breaking ball. Sam Smith was 90-92 with his fast ball the first inning. Those young guys are getting their legs back and feeling a little more confident, and that's good to see."

Projected first-game starter Bobby Wahl, a sophomore right-hander, had a rough first outing of the spring. He gave up five runs in the top of the first inning Friday.

"You want to credit the offense. Like I told the offense, if you want to beat an ace, you have to put an inning together," Bianco said. "There was an infield hit that was a misplayed ball in the infield. Then Blake Newalu does a great job and fights off a two-strike pitch and bloops one into right field. (Tanner) Mathis does a great job and walks, and he doesn't walk a lot.

Alex Yarbrough
Bruce Newman

"Then (Matt) Snyder does what you're supposed to do in the cleanup hole with bases loaded and no outs in the first. He hits a double down the right field line, and now you've got the momentum on your side. The next pitch to (Preston) Overbey is a hanging, breaking ball. And he hits a home run. So in that inning there were only two hard-hit balls. But it got away from (Wahl) a little bit, and the offense did a good job. But his stuff's there. He's terrific."

Bianco said defensively the Rebels need to pick it up some.

"Again, we've got to help those guys a little bit, especially in the first inning," he said of the defense aiding the pitchers. "We've got to make some plays, and we can't make mental mistakes and have misplayed balls. But I'm excited the offense is swinging like that."

On Saturday it was Jake Overbey, who played some second base and some shortstop this weekend, wearing the yellow shirt signifying best defensive player from the day before. On Sunday, that shirt was worn by Will Allen.

"Proud of Jake," Bianco said of the freshman who was a 10th round draft pick by the Phillies last summer. "He really didn't have that great of a fall. Jake just didn't catch it that well in the infield in the fall. But he's been terrific since he's been back (in January). I mean every single day. He's gained a lot of confidence in the field. Friday he made seven or eight plays, and three or four of them weren't really routine. Just nice plays in the field.

"Will's worked so hard with Coach (Cliff) Godwin behind the plate with his receiving and blocking and his throwing as well," Bianco said of Allen, who has emerged as the leader among the catchers. "He threw out several guys in the Saturday steal scrimmage. He just continues to improve."

Other notables from the weekend:

Matt Snyder – home run, double, 2 singles, walk, 6 RBI

Blake Newalu – 2 singles, double, 2 walks, 3 runs scored

Alex Yarbrough – single, double, 2 RBI, 2 walks

Zach Kirksey – double, 4 hit by pitches, 5 RBI

Preston Overbey – 2 singles, home run, 3 RBI

Auston Bousfield – double, single, 2 walks, 2 RBI

Senquez Golson didn't get a hit this weekend but continues to adjust to baseball following football season

Pitching highlights from the weekend:

Aaron Greenwood – 2 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Casey Greene – 2 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 walks, 1 strikeout

Josh Laxer – 2 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Sam Smith – 2 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts

Dylan Chavez – 2 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk

Casey Mulholland – 2 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 strikeout, 0 walks

John Gatlin – 2 innings, 0 runs, 0 hits, 1 strikeout, 1 walk

Will Jamison – 1.67 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 strikeout, 0 walks

Mike Mayers – 2 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 2 strikeouts, 1 walk

Blair Wright – 2 innings, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 strikeouts, 1 walk

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