Last year fans grew accustomed to the gruff mustached face of first baseman Sikes Orvis, but this year the face of the program belongs to the smiling junior from Boyds, Md.
Head coach Mike Bianco saw Robinson as a good fit to step into the role.
“He’s a charismatic guy, Bianco said. “He’s never acted like a freshman here. I think he’s a fan-favorite, and he has been since he was a freshman. I think people love his emotion and his energy and what he brings to the field, and they’ve watched that for two years.”
Bianco feels that in order to fit as the face program Errol only needs to continue to do what he’s done in his first two years.
“I don’t think he needs to change anything,” Bianco said. “The biggest advice anybody could give him is just be yourself. You don’t have to be anybody else. You are one of those fan favorites because of what you’ve done, not what you can do, so continue to do what you do.”
Robinson was immediately thrust into a starting role since he joined the Rebels, but that never resulted in complacency on his part.
“He’s been a starter since the day he walked on the field, but he’s continued to improve, and I think in all phases,” Bianco said. “Defensively, offensively, base running, he’s even put on a few pounds this year, and has gained some strength.”
Robinson’s value to the team is greater than ever, with Bianco not shying away from giving high praise to the shortstop.
“He’s coming off a great summer where he was an all-star up in the Cape Cod summer league, and been a great leader for us this first month that we’ve been out,” Bianco said. “When you talk about retuning key players I think a lot of people look at position players, and you look up the middle. When you return your shortstop and arguably one of the best short stops in the country, we’re excited to have him out there his junior year.”
Robinson said he embraced the role but was quick to give credit to the other leaders on the team as well.
“This is my team, I consider it my team, but I’m not the only leader here, there are five, six other leaders here who have been here in the program who understand the expectations that not only that the players have for one another but coach Bianco has for us,” Robinson said. “It’s an exciting time for me but also for this team, being a little bit older and having the leadership from the older guys, and I’m just really ready to get to it.”
Ole Miss made it all the way to Omaha in 2014, and narrowly missed returning in 2015, but in order to make it back this year will have to build chemistry pretty quickly with a lot of new faces on the squad.
“This is our third weekend, and it’s kind of been a mixed bag, we return a lot of position players from last year, we return seven of the starting nine, so it’s not surprising that the offense has really dominated a lot of the scrimmages,” Bianco said. “We’ve had some good pitching performances, but maybe not collectively and in one day, but I also am excited about the pitchers. I think we have 11 new pitchers in this recruiting class that just showed up in the fall here, and a lot of new faces and a lot of guys that we think are going to be big parts of this in the spring. “
With so many position players retuning for the Rebels pitching is definitely the biggest question the team. The losses of Christian Trent and Scott Weathersby certainly hurt the rotation, but Ole Miss heavily recruited the junior college ranks to add some instant impact players to make up for their production, signing Chad Smith, Bryant Browning Austin Sanders and David Parkinson
“So four juco arms, two of them being left handed, are guys that we think are gonna make an impact this spring, as well as some young arms as well like James McArthur, Andrew Lowe and others that I think have gotten off to a good start,” Bianco said.
Bianco included figuring out the new starting line up as part of his focus for fall camp, but ultimately figuring out the new pitching rotation was the main focus.
“Really see where we are position player wise, which guys have improved. Even though we return seven guys off of last years starting lineup, where are we with those guys, and what that lineup is going to look like,” Bianco said. “Probably more important this fall is getting through that pitching staff with 11 new faces and (Will) Stokes and (Brady) Bramlett and Wyatt Short, and Sean Johnson coming off injury. How’s that going to lineup, what’s the starting rotation Friday Saturday Sunday, who’s going to be in the bullpen, those types of things, and I think, not that we need the answer by the end of the fall but to have a little better grasp than we would at the beginning of the fall.”
The biggest plus for the Ole Miss pitching staff is the return of junior Brady Bramlett, who went 7-4 in 15 appearances last season with a 3.74 era. Bianco said it was vital for the team to get Bramlett back this season.
“Brady was one of the mainstays last year, and any time that you return one of those SEC starters that’s huge. He had some bone chips removed from his elbow this summer so he’s not currently pitching live in the intra-squad games, he starts bullpens week. It’s a good sign, the rehab has gone well, he’s going to be in good shape, we knew it was about a six-week period where he’d be out, and he’s hit every mark, so we’re excited about getting him back.
Bramlett now moves into a bigger spot for the Rebels that will require to take a leadership role amongst the newcomers on the pitching staff.
“I’m really trying to embrace that role, I’ve always been a really big proponent of leading by example and I’m not going to change who I am just because I’m moving into a new role in the year,” Bramlett said. “So I’m just really hoping the younger guys look to me in that role, but just trying to be the best example on and off the field for the guys as possible.”
Since the conclusion of last season, Bramlett has focused on conditioning to improve for the upcoming year.
“This season was all about getting my body right, building strength, dropping bad weight and really evolving into a pitcher,” Bramlett said. “Last year was a great year and I felt great, arm felt great, now this year it’s even more so learning how to command my secondary pitches, really learning how to spot up more so than I did last year.”