Baseball heads into fall's home stretch

Fall baseball rolls on for the Ole Miss Rebels, and Coach Mike Bianco is pleased with a lot of things he is seeing.

"We've been really good offensively," the fifth-year Ole Miss head coach said. "Some guys are really swinging the bat well. The pitchers are usually ahead this early in the year, but this year the hitters seem to be."

That's not to say the pitchers haven't performed well. The veteran staff continues to show signs that it could be the best in Bianco's five seasons.

"We're strong on the mound," said Bianco, whose club returns a host of junior starters with a lot of innings pitched, including Stephen Head, Mark Holliman, Eric Fowler, Anthony Cupps, Brian Pettway, Matt Maloney, and Taylor Fowler. "The year we had Pete Montrenes, T.J. Beam. J.R. Pickens, Alan Horne, and others, now that was a pretty strong staff as well. But this is the most depth we have had as a pitching staff since we've been here."

Tommy Baumgardner, a junior left-hander from Indian River CC in Florida, has probably made more noise than any of the newcomers to the pitching staff. He has a 3.60 ERA so far in games this fall. Redshirt freshman RHP Will Kline and redshirt freshman RHP Jon-Jon Hancock, both of Tupelo, have also figured into the pitching this fall.

But it is the offense that has Bianco even more excited at this point. The numbers are up, the players are hitting better, and following last spring's late-season hitting woes, that is good to see.

"Chris Coghlan (Sophomore 3B) has no strikeouts this fall and is batting .412," Bianco said. "He's hit the ball hard and is probably ahead of everybody right now in the hitting department. He's really seeing it well.

"But the numbers say there are others right there as well. Barry Gunther (Senior C) is batting about the same as Coghlan, at .417 right now. John Morgan Mims (Sophomore OF) is at .429, and Brian Pettway (junior 3B, OF, P) is at .438. As you can see, those are some impressive numbers for this early in the year."

There are some others up there too, like sophomore CF Alex Presley at .357, and Hancock at .353. Bianco says senior OF Miles Franklin has also had a good hitting fall so far.

Bianco says the fence experiment is going well as the Rebels are using a temporary fence that is at the dimensions 330-360-390-360-330 instead of the current 330-375-400-375-330.

"There have certainly been some home runs hit over the new fence that would not have been over the old one," he said. "And it's not like we've hit a lot of home runs any way. We've had like eight in four games, and five of them were between the two walls.

"And it's better with the gaps shorter. It took a lot to get one through there, and now it doesn't take a crusher to get it out there."

The experiemcnt continues, but look for a permanent move of the wall before the season begins in mid-February.

Some other updates from the diamond:

The shortstop spot is still up for grabs between sophomore Ryne Porter and freshman Zack Cozart. Both are having good falls and have impressed.

Several players are still in the hunt for the outfield spots, although Presley is most likely still in centerfield. Franklin, Mims, Pettway, Hancock, and sophomore Mark Wright are in the picture there.

At first when Head pitches, it's still any number of players including sophomore newcomer C.J. Ketchum, redshirt freshman Justin Henry, and redshirt freshman Peyton Farr, along with Hancock.

Senior Cooper Osteen has had a solid fall at second base.

The Rebels will intrasquad this weekend at 2 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday. The following weekend when Tennessee comes to town for football, the Rebels' intrasquad times are 2 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Since the Ole Miss-Tennessee football game is now set for 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2, the Saturday, October 16 baseball intrasquad contest will be the highlight scrimmage of the fall season.

As mentioned, the annual fall Red-Blue Game will begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.

OM Spirit Top Stories