Ryan Olenek (Josh McCoy)

Ole Miss Focused as End of Season Nears

Ryan Olenek doesn't remember much after crashing into Rebel shortstop Grae Kessinger on a shallow pop fly that fell out of the sky last Wednesday against Louisiana-Monroe.

In fact, he doesn't even really remember the collision.

"I just remember running in. I don't remember where I was running. I just stopped. I don't know where. That is about it," Olenek said. "I remember sitting in the dugout."

He originally stayed in the game, and actually came to the plate for an at bat in the bottom half of the inning. He does not recall that either, and vomited in the dugout trash can shortly after, signaling that something was wrong.

It wasn't his first time dealing with a concussion, and was prepared for the headaches and the miserable three to four days that followed. Olenek didn't make the trip to Gainesville, and watched the Rebels get swept from a television at home while he underwent further testing.

"It was really tough watching it on TV and not being able to be there in support," he said. "But I was with them every pitch. It was a tough weekend, but we are going back."

He's since cleared protocol and will be back in the lineup this weekend. Aside from the offensive production he provides in the four-hole, Ole Miss will welcome back the energy he brings to the ballpark every day.

"Fans love him because they love his energy. He's one of those guys," Mike Bianco said. "It's why a lot of fans loved Errol Robinson. They play with their emotions on their sleeves, and play hard and lay it all out on the line every game. I think when you lose him, you lose more than just the statistics in the offense and defensively you lose an energy giver."

While Ole Miss will get a boost in that sense this weekend, another red flag popped up at practice on Wednesday. Colby Bortles sat in the dugout in shorts. Bianco cited it as a "back muscle flare up" that was irritated on Monday when Bortles came to the facility to hit on his own.

"He's the proverbial day-to-day," Bianco said. "We are not sure what it is. He saw a doctor last night. We are treating it as a muscle. The best thing is to just keep him out. Obviously when it is your back, especially your lower back, there is not a whole lot you can do, from hitting to defense to defense you engage your back. So the best thing to do is to keep him out."

Bortles' status for Friday is not known. 

Ole Miss could certainly use the slugger in a must-win series against Texas A&M this weekend. D1Baseball.com has Ole Miss as a three seed in the Chapel Hill regional. Baseball America has the Rebels as one of the first four teams out of the field. This team has teetered back and forth over the last month on the line of earning a bid or getting left out. It will take at least 14 and possibly 15 SEC victories in order to Ole Miss to earn a bid into the field of 64. It won't be easy with the 16th-ranked Aggies coming to town this weekend, and traveling to 14th-ranked Auburn to close the season. The players know what they have to do and know how important each game is, but at the same time do not get caught up in the standings and the projections to prevent from clouding the head.

"I think we realize it, but we don't pay too much attention to it," Thomas Dillard said. "If we play our game and finish strong, the chips will fall like we want them too. We just have to finish strong and hopefully win the next two weekends and have a strong showing in the SEC Tournament like we want to."

With so many young players on the team, it is a fine line to walk. But the nerves are gone, and these freshmen have grown up and are ready to help this team as it barrels down the home stretch.

"We've been out here for a couple of months now. I think we are pretty much used and are prepared for whatever is going to be thrown our way," Cooper Johnson said. "I think we are settled in for the most part. I think everyone is past the nerves, past the getting used to things. Speaking for myself, this is what you play for."


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