Mike Bianco/Petre Thomas

Jeff Roberson catches up with Mike Bianco to discuss the latest on Ole Miss baseball

The fall baseball season for the Ole Miss Rebels moves into October later this week. Here are some comments from Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco as the Rebels continue fall ball.

By: Jeff Roberson

Bianco on what he has seen from the team this summer and fall so far: “My initial thoughts are that I think we’re very talented. It’s one of the best, if not the best, recruiting classes to get to campus. We do return some integral parts of last year’s team, not just on the mound but in the field.”

Bianco on the makeup of the team, especially from an age angle: “We’re younger, when you look at it on paper. I think two seniors (INF Colby Bortles, RHP Sean Johnson) and six juniors (INF Tate Blackman, INF/OF Will Golsan, INF/OF Kyle Watson, LHP David Parkinson, RHP Will Stokes, junior college transfer OF Tim Rowe). Eight upperclass juniors and seniors. That makes 29 freshmen and sophomores. But those young guys are very talented, and a lot of sophomores contributed last year. We had three freshmen All-Americans last year (all pitchers: RHP Brady Feigl, RHP James McArthur, RHP Andy Pagnozzi) and a lot of guys who played big roles.”

Bianco on the makeup of the squad in a number of areas: “I like this team. It will be an interesting next month to see what younger guys are ready to contribute right now. And also of the returners, which ones are ready to take the next step and have a bigger role. It’s so early. Everyone always wants to write about team chemistry and togetherness. Yes, they get along well and from what I’ve seen the older guys have really taken on that leadership role. But we have to count on all the classes (to contribute) and not wait until they’re juniors and seniors.”

Bianco on some positions of note the coaches are looking to try to lock down this fall: “We lost Errol Robinson at shortstop, Henri Lartigue behind the plate, and J.B. Woodman in the outfield. Those were key people. Certainly the infield is an area to watch, how that reveals itself. We feel good about it. There’s a lot of talent in the infield. (Freshman) Grae Kessinger has been at shortstop and looks terrific. Kyle Watson and (sophomore) Ryan Olenek have been good there and (freshman) Bryce Blaum. At third base we return Colby Bortles but there is also a junior college transfer (sophomore) Chase Cockrell that’s been good. There a lot of different options in the infield. Tate Blackman at second base. (Freshman) Cole Zabowski at first base. Colby has been there some. (Redshirt sophomore) Michael Fitzsimmons has been at first. We don’t know all the answers for who will be where, but we feel good about the fact that there are certainly enough pieces to be good and have depth. I think depth is another strong point. Behind the plate, I think we’re as good as we’ve ever been with (sophomore) Nick Fortes, (freshman) Cooper Johnson, (freshman) Thomas Dillard and (redshirt freshman) Carson Klepzig. Right now it will be a battle behind the plate.”

Bianco on the outfield: “If you watch us in intrasquad games, where we look thin is in the outfield. Part of that is a couple of outfield guys from last year are in the infield right now. There’s a chance those guys could go back out to the outfield. There’s certainly enough numbers and athleticism to do that. Kyle Watson is an example of that. We moved Will Golsan out to the outfield (this fall) because of his athleticism. He’s been at second base and first base. He’s looked great out there and can really run and has a good arm. (Sophomore) D.J. Miller has really swung the bat well this first month. (Freshman) Bryan Seamster has been in the outfield, Dillard has played a little outfield, Zabowski has as well, Watson and Miller. There are talented players out there. So most people, as far as positions of interest, will look to the outfield, shortstop, and catcher. There’s been a lot of movement in these intrasquad games.”

Bianco on some pitching thoughts: “We lost Brady Bramlett. David Parkinson was the No. 2 pitcher last year. James McArthur is back. Sean Johnson, Brady Feigl, Will Stokes, Dallas Woolfolk, Andy Pagnozzi. We return some guys who pitched significant innings and in big games and situations. If it hadn’t been for Wyatt Short, Stokes might have the saves record. He’s pitched in so many big games the last two years. So we have experience in the bullpen and with some starters. Sean Johnson has pitched well. He’s more comfortable and confident. He was less than a year out of surgery last year. He was healthy and released, but he wasn’t 100 percent. And there is a difference. The new guys are talented: (freshman) left-hander Ryan Rolison, (freshman) right-hander Will Ethridge, and the Oxford guys (freshmen right-handers) Jason Barber and Houston Roth. (Freshman) Left-hander Jackson Tavel . So there’s going to be a lot of competition out there.”

Bianco on the class that has arrived and avoiding a major hit in the draft: “It was as good as it could be. Everybody showed up. I don’t think at any time over the past year did we have a scenario in our heads that we’d get them all. It’s very fluid. But that’s why I think this class will end up ranked No. 1 (nationally) or at least in the top two or three in every poll. There are so many talented kids. We’re fortunate, and kudos to Carl Lafferty and Mike Clement for putting together a talented class and also a class that would show up on campus, with kids and families that value education and the college experience.”

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