Fall Ball

Omaha has been in the rearview mirror for quite some time for Ole Miss baseball through the years. But since June it’s at least been a closeup shot.

That’s when Ole Miss made it to the College World Series for the fifth time ever but the first time in 42 years. Coach Mike Bianco’s troops have already started to build on that success with summer workouts and individual drills in their attempt to head back again next summer.

Fall ball officially begins today.

Bianco said leadership is as important as anything, and he saw that from last year’s team.

“When you look back to last year, it may have been the biggest deciding factor,” he said as he enters his 15th season with the program. “When you look back at guys like (Will) Allen and (Austin) Anderson, and guys like (Preston) Overbey and (John) Gatlin, all those guys. When you look at it, maybe those great leaders were the difference.

“And not great leaders in the fact that maybe they gave great speeches. People really respected those guys. I think that helped the younger guys be better as newcomers because those guys were such good leaders.”

Some of those guys return and are seasoned vets, like Sikes Orvis and Sam Smith, Austin Knight and Cameron Dishon.

But some of those guys who will be counted on to lead are only in their second year of Ole Miss baseball. Like Christian Trent and Colby Bortles, Errol Robinson and J.B. Woodman to name a few.

Ole Miss has the second-most .500 or better Southeastern Conference records since 2001. South Carolina leads the league with 14. Ole Miss and Florida have 11. Bianco said winning just a couple more games can make the difference in hosting or not and advancing or not.

“How do we get that one or two more games that makes all the difference in the world?” Bianco said. “We had to be tougher to make the pitch, get the hit, make the play. Tough enough to lose a game and bounce back. Not go through a span of losing five games in a row.

“If you look back last season and count the Louisiana-Lafayette three-game series in there as well. Not the Regional or World Series. Just weekends with one team and three games, there were 15 weekends. We won 12 of those weekends. Last year’s team developed that toughness. For this year’s team, there’s that standard of toughness. Last year we were trying to convince those guys to trust us and buy into it, that they had to be that tough to succeed. Those guys bought into it.”

Bianco said the veterans now understand and the newcomers are learning, both from the older players and from the experiences of the past few weeks of workouts.

“I don’t know that we have to sell those guys as much anymore," he said. "We have to continue to remind them. But they realize there’s a standard of toughness that you have to reach to have success in this program, in this league, and to play in the College World Series. And to win a national championship.”

Some Things To Keep An Eye On:

* Brady Bramlett returns and will start in one of today’s intrasquad games. The third-year sophomore right-handed pitcher missed all of last year with shoulder surgery and rehab.

* Senior Austin Knight, sophomore Henri Lartigue, and freshman Nic Perkins are likely going to battle it out at catcher.

* The outfield has veterans J.B. Woodman and Cameron Dishon returning. But gone are some quality players, and in their place are a number of players vying to roam the outfield. Guys like redshirt freshman Peyton Attaway and junior college transfers Josh Watkins, Matt Martin, and Connor Cloyd. Also out there working will be another valuable member from last year’s team, junior Holt Perdzock.

* How much progress has sophomore left-handed pitcher Evan Anderson made? Will any of the newcomers to the pitching staff be able to work their way into the starting rotation like Christian Trent did last season? Senior Sam Smith also returns and has arguably as much experience as any weekend starter in the Bianco era.

* In the infield, will sophomore Colby Bortles be the guy at third base? With sophomore Errol Robinson likely to remain at shortstop, does freshman Tate Blackman become the second baseman, replacing the veteran Preston Overbey who graduated?

* Returning pitcher Preston Tarkington is out for the school year after having recent Tommy John surgery. Freshman pitcher Brady Feigl is also out for the year due to the same thing. Juco infielder Jay King decided to leave the team this week. Sophomores Dalton Dulin and Brantley Bell had already left the program this summer.

So stay tuned for more. Fall ball is here.

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