By: Jeff Roberson
Now it’s his junior season. The shortstop is no longer a mystery, one of those “can he get it done?” or “is he good enough to play the important position in the Southeastern Conference?” players.
The answer came during that first season and was solidified the following season when he was a sophomore.
Errol Robinson is a terrific college baseball player. And better yet, Ole Miss fans really like him, as his head coach points out.
“Errol is one of the fan favorites,” Mike Bianco said. “He’s one of those guys that when he’s on the field he brings a lot of energy. He’s a super competitor and he can be flashy and show you that.”
Folks around the country are beginning to notice, if they haven't already. One week after being named preseason first-team All-America by D1Baseball.com, Robinson garnered the same honor from Baseball America. Major League Baseball scouting directors voted Robinson the nation's top shortstop heading into the 2016 season, placing him on the 2016 Preseason All-America First Team.
Bianco said Robinson’s two years have even been “Cozart-like” which means he is referring to current major leaguer Zack Cozart, who had a sensational college career at Ole Miss a decade ago. He also said Robinson is a confident player, and he brings that to his position and to his team.
“This guy has started just about every game as a freshman and sophomore at the most difficult position on the field. And he’s played well,” Bianco said. “He’s hit. He’s done whatever we’ve asked him to do. We’ve asked him to bat ninth, to bat second, to lead off.
“I don’t know if there’s a guy on the team that if you need a base hit to win the game you’d want anyone more than Errol at the plate. He always seems to be at his best in the biggest moments.”
Robinson came to Ole Miss as a confident player, sure of his abilities and ready to give the program everything he had. And that first season the team wound up in Omaha after winning a NCAA Regional in Oxford and a Super Regional in Lafayette, La.
Robinson practices hard, prepares thoroughly, and is a “gamer.” He relishes all of that, especially the part about the “games” themselves.
“That’s my time to shine,” said Robinson, of Boyds, Maryland, who played baseball at St. John’s College High School prior to arriving at Ole Miss as a freshman. “The biggest stage; that’s what I like. I try to do my best at that time. A few games it can be tough. But this year I want to prove myself and prove to my teammates that we have to focus every game against every opponent. Every game is important.”
Now the 2016 season is only a couple of weeks away. Robinson said he and his teammates are ready for it.
“It’s a great chance for this team,” Robinson said of the upcoming campaign, which begins at home February 19 with a three-game series against Florida International. “We’re special and we can’t wait to get started. We can smell it. We can feel it. So we’re excited.”
Robinson likes being in a position to lead this team.
“I’ve taken the role on as being a leader. I was some the first two years, but this year this is my team and this is our year to go get it. I feel like I’ve been a leader since I stepped on campus because of my actions. This is a special year for us and this team. My leadership can really help us. I feel like I have something to prove to continue to lead this team on to our ultimate goal of winning a national championship.”
Robinson likes the new group of players, and some of them are already stepping up to make a difference.
“We’ve got a good solid new group of guys on the mound. James McArthur (freshman RHP). (Freshman) Nick Fortes is behind the plate. He’s a presence and is a great defensive player. He shows a lot of potential. Brian Browning is a (juco junior) left-handed pitcher. A lot of guys have stepped up and that’s great to see.”
Robinson loved the attitude coming out of the first semester. He knows this team is focused because of what it has been through during fall ball.
“The focus level this fall was great,” he said. “Coach (Bianco) always says the beginning of the fall you’re going to be energized, and things are going to come easy for you. The end of the fall it’s going to be rough and it’s going to be the grind. But I really didn’t feel that way this time. I felt like we kept the focus the entire time. It did get tough, but we didn’t show it. The older guys showed that that wasn’t going to be this team. Ultimately that same mindset took us to the World Series two years ago. That’s what we wanted to do again this fall. The chemistry was a huge factor this fall. I just think the sky’s the limit for us.”
“Errol’s been a tremendous leader for us this fall. He’s had a great career," Bianco said. "Let’s face it, he’s played every day and done everything. So that makes us feel good about our team when you know you’ve got a shortstop that’s played almost every pitch for the last two years and played it as well as anybody. And now he’s back for year three.”
Robinson said he knows the team has cracked the Top 25 in some polls but not in others. But that’s of little concern.
“In the end it’s how you finish, not how we’re ranked right now,” he said. “It’s just about going out and winning ball games.”
In two weeks, the 2016 OIe Miss Rebels get that chance.