Opening Week

The message from this year's Ole Miss baseball camp has been more toughness. Mentally and physically getting tougher.

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That started with the hire of strength and conditioning coach Ben Fleming last summer. That theme continues.

"We've talked about it a lot. Toughness," Bianco said. "We've been close to being a great team the last couple of years. But a pitch here or a play there and literally a game here or there, it hasn't happened for us. The difference for the great teams is they make that one play, that great pitch. They win that game that matters."

Bianco said they've discussed all that and worked toward changing it in their favor. He knows the payoff of the hard work is advantageous to his team.

"It puts you hosting a Regional rather than playing on the road. It puts you in the upper echelon of your conference where it's so competitive. One game out of 30 means a lot."

How do they handle it?

"One of the things is just being more physically tough," Bianco said. "If you're physically tough, then mentally you'll be able to handle some more things."

In addition to Fleming, Bianco said greater depth at positions has made things better.

"The competition at each position has helped," he said. "In competitions throughout practice and even after weights, I think the message was sent early on about being tough-minded and handling adversity. I'm very proud of what they've been through. We see (improvement) every day. Mission accomplished."

Bianco said youth will also help this team, along with the returnees. He said the eighth-ranked recruiting class that came in this school year will definitely have some key players who contribute.

"When I look at it, it's as good a mix of newcomers and veterans as we've had in a long time," he said. "This first weekend we'll see several of those young guys take the field for us. Some of them will be in starting roles. There could be position-wise two, three, maybe even four freshmen in the starting lineup over the first weekend."

But he also points to veterans that are back who will contribute heavily.

"Chris Ellis, Aaron Greenwood, Sam Smith, guys that have pitched in the Southeastern Conference and had a lot of success," Bianco said. "Position players like Austin Anderson, Preston Overbey, Sikes Orvis, Will Allen, Auston Bousfield, Will Jamison, a lot of position players that have known a lot of success in our league as well."

Auston Bousfield
Bruce Newman

Diamond Notes:

* Bianco on depth and selecting the travel roster for this weekend: "I don't know if I've ever had as much difficulty making a (travel) list of guys that will travel with us."

* Weekend starters this weekend: Junior RHP Chris Ellis, sophomore (juco transfer) LHP Christan Trent, and junior RHP Sam Smith. "Chris is the most talented guy we have. He's projected to be a first-rounder," Bianco said. "Trent was recruited to be a weekend guy. He pitched the best of anybody this fall. Gives us a different look, a left-hander that throws in the upper 80s and low 90s."

* Position players most likely to start this weekend: catcher senior Will Allen, third base senior Austin Anderson, shortstop freshman Errol Robinson, second base either senior Preston Overbey or freshman Dalton Dulin, first base junior Sikes Orvis. The outfield mix is among four players to start – junior (juco transfer) Braxton Lee, junior Auston Bousfield, junior Will Jamison, and freshman J.B. Woodman. Another true freshman, Colby Bortles, can play some third or first or DH.

* First pitcher Bianco mentioned from the bullpen – Aaron Greenwood: "A guy that has pitched a ton of meaningful innings for us. At times he can be our best guy, and we like him from the bullpen. We used him before to bridge the gap to the closer. We hope now to pitch him later and finish the game."

* Bianco on Senquez Golson: "The first weekend (of intrasquads) he got four hits. He's a super talent. He pulled his hamstring (a couple of weeks ago). That will put him out for about a month. So we look at it, he's a guy that hasn't played baseball in a year and a half, plays one weekend, then has to sit down another month. His chances of getting out on the field and contributing right away aren't real good. By that time, spring football will have rolled around. The best thing for him right now is to be what we call a non-roster player, which means he can practice baseball but not with the team. He's going to hit with Coach (Cliff) Godwin and take fly balls when he's healthy. But he will be a football player fulltime. Then continue to work on his baseball skills."

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