Press Box Notebook

Baseball, baseball, and more baseball.

Seth Keshel of Hillcrest Christian and now Ole Miss has called himself at times "the other Seth." That's in reference, of course, to Seth Smith who preceded Keshel along the same path.

Both have ties to Ole Miss baseball – Smith as the former player now turned pro, and Keshel as one of the program's important right-hand men.

Keshel is a little bit of everything for Ole Miss baseball when it comes to stats and charts. Baseball is something he's always been interested in.

"My parents have always been big baseball fans," Keshel said. "I went to my first baseball game in the late 1980s in Toronto at old Exhibition Stadium. The Blue Jays were playing the White Sox. We were living in upstate New York at the time. I really don't remember anything about that trip. I was three years old."

But it was a start to his baseball career, one that would land him working behind the scenes and not actually on the playing field.

In 1993 after his family moved to Mississippi, he attended the first pro baseball game he remembers. He saw the Marlins and the Braves in Atlanta.

The 20-year-old says he fell in love with the game and has basically been around it ever since.

"I played until I was in the ninth grade when I didn't make the Hillcrest team," said Seth.

No shame there. Lot of kids wouldn't make it in a program with the likes of Smith, Stephen Head, Logan Power, Cody Satterwhite – all past, present, or future Rebels.

"Coach Wy (then Hillcrest coach Paul Wyczawski) kept me on as the stat guy. I credit him a lot with being where I am today."

And that is being totally involved in the Ole Miss baseball program.

"You could tell all these guys (Hillcrest players turned Ole Miss Rebels) were standout players in high school from the get-go," said Keshel. "A lot of coaches and scouts would come to out games. The way I got connected with Ole Miss so much is that Coach (Dan) McDonnell would always ask me for the stats (on the Rebel signees). Coach Mac always remembered me. Then I met Coach Bianco.

"I came to school up here, and I really didn't know what I was going to do with the team. They said they'd try to find something for me to do."

In the fall of his freshman year (2003-04), Keshel kept stats in fall ball for the Rebels. He was around the program in the spring, but not like he has been this year.

"We figured out a system in the fall (of 2004) to present an award to the hitter with the highest point total of quality at-bats," he said of the "Keshel Cup" which it is called. "We had various point totals assigned for all kinds of offensive stats. Cooper Osteen won it last fall. Then Brian Pettway won it in the spring preseason practice."

Keshel, a U.S. military kid born in Puerto Rico in 1984 and the youngest of five children, keeps stats every day in the fall for the team. During the season he works with assistant coach Stuart Lake on at-bat performances and stats, keeping up with quality at-bats and percentages, all important to baseball.

During the games he charts pitches, which helps out pitching coach Kyle Bunn. Keshel sits behind the plate in the box seats with a radar gun, checking for velocity and location. Pro scouts usually sit in that area too. That works out quite well for Keshel's future plans.

"I want to get into scouting," he said. "This summer I am going to work as an associate scout for the Kansas City Royals. I hope to learn even more this summer doing that."

For every game, Keshel, a management major, puts together an extensive pregame and postgame summary. The following is an example of his work this season.

Purdue Boilermakers

March 4th, 2005

Oxford University Stadium/Swayze Field

Oxford, Mississippi

Pitching Matchup

Ole Miss: Mark Holliman, Jr. (1-0, 6.00)

Purdue: Scott Byrnes, Sr. (0-0, 0.00)

Game Outlook: Ole Miss (6-3) hosts Big Ten member Purdue (1-2) in a three-game set this weekend in Oxford. Purdue was 29-28 last year. The Boilermakers opened up on the road against Florida Atlantic last weekend, dropping two of three.

Mark Holliman will attempt to earn his second win again after failing to do so against Southern Illinois. He will be opposed by Purdue senior righthander Scott Byrnes, who was 4-5 with a 3.74 ERA last season.

Mark Wright enters the series as the team leader in batting average with a .450 (9x20) mark. He is trailed by Jon-Jon Hancock (.409), Zack Cozart (.391), Chris Coghlan (.389), and Brian Pettway (.385).

Game Review: After two starts in which he was somewhat wild, Mark Holliman turned in a dominating performance versus Purdue in a 14-3 Ole Miss victory. Holliman loaded the bases with no outs in the first, but escaped with only two runs scoring. He settled down after the opening frame, allowing just six hits while striking out ten Purdue hitters on the evening. Holliman allowed no walks while pitching with excellent velocity and precision. He also made several highlight reel snags on balls up the middle.

Brian Pettway was 3x5, extending his season-opening hit streak to 10 games. First baseman Stephen Head knotted the game at 2-2 with a two-run home run off the top of the left field wall against Purdue starter Scott Byrnes in the first inning. The home run, his third of the season, increased his team-leading RBI total to 13.

Sophomore third baseman Chris Coghlan turned in a 3x4 night; he finished a triple shy of the cycle. In the eighth, he belted a 405' blast to right field for his second round tripper of the season. Tommy Baumgardner wrapped up the final two innings, allowing no hits and striking out one Boilermaker.

Commentary: Holliman brought electric stuff to Swayze Field tonight; in the early innings, his fastball sat between 91-94 MPH. His blistering heater topped out at 97 and hit 96 twice. This game was far and above his most dominating performance of the 2005 season. Holliman's slider was clicking tonight. He pinpointed its location while firing it between 79-84 MPH.

The Rebels pounded the ball offensively. More of the same is needed for the remainder of this homestand. The hitters got clutch two-out hits and barely missed out on three additional home runs.

Quotable: "There aren't many home runs I hit that I know are gone, but I knew that one was."- Chris Coghlan, Ole Miss third baseman

The Bottom Lines:

123 456 789 R H E

Purdue (1-3) 200 100 000 3 6 1

#16 Ole Miss (7-3) 203 112 05x 14 14 2

W- Holliman, M. (2-0)

L- Byrnes, S. (0-1)

HR- Head, S. (3); Coghlan, C. (2)

Impressive work, huh. Seth puts a lot of time and effort into it all, but it is the proverbial labor of love.

"I enjoy being around the team," says Keshel, who has attended every Rebel game this season. "All the guys treat me good, just like I was a player."

Coach Mike Bianco says he is a part of the team.

"Seth has really helped us the past two years," Bianco said. "He has a vast amount of ability and knowledge and is an important part of what we are doing. He's willing to assist us in any way he can, and he has just been a huge help to us in a lot of ways."

Keshel plans to keep up the good work for the next two years and then get into pro baseball, most likely as a scout.

College appears to be doing for Seth Keshel exactly what it is supposed to do – prepare one for life after college.

"I really had no idea when I came to Ole Miss what I wanted to do after I got out of school," the "other Seth" of Hillcrest and Ole Miss said. "But I do now. It's all working out pretty well so far."

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This time of year there are always a few changes in a team's makeup for the rest of the season and for the future. When school is officially out but the team is still playing, a handful of players leave for whatever reasons – to pursue other playing opportunities perhaps at other schools, or they decide the time and effort one must put into college baseball isn't worth it anymore, or they want to focus more on their academics and remain at Ole Miss, etc.

So far only one Rebel who has been on the 25-man travel roster this spring has decided to move on. Ryne Porter, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound sophomore who played in 16 games as a freshman and 11 as a sophomore, this year behind freshman Zack Cozart at shortstop, has left the team. His future plans are not currently known.

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There was a question on the Spirit message board this week about Anthony Cupps' arm. Coach Mike Bianco said Wednesday that Cupps is fine and that he threw bullpen work on Tuesday.

"They may be wondering about things like that because we have used so few pitchers lately," Bianco said. "We used just five pitchers in the South Carolina series – Mark Holliman, Matt Maloney, Eric Fowler, Tommy Baumgardner, and Stephen Head. Anthony's fine, and I think our whole team is as healthy and injury-free as we've been all season."

It's been a good season health-wise for the Rebels so far. Maybe the best in Bianco's five seasons.

There will always be a sore arm or a pulled muscle, things like that. But this year very few pitchers or position players have been out, and if so, not for long.

Many, as in my story on him last week, credit trainer Eric Gahan for much of that. The players being dedicated and more physically fit has helped as well.

You might throw a little luck or good fortune in there, too. Hope it continues.

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The Oxford Chargers won the Mississippi Class 4A state title Tuesday at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson with a 15-8 win over Petal.

Ole Miss signee Wes Grilliette, a 6-2, 190-pound right-handed pitcher who will be a freshman for the Rebels in the fall, was the winning pitcher in the Chargers' last five games. He started and pitched a complete game against Kosciusko to finish that series with a victory a couple of weeks ago.

In the next series, Grilliette started a game against New Hope and went six innings in getting the win. The next game vs. the Trojans he relieved and got a victory.

In the final series, he started and pitched a complete game in a win over Petal. Then on Tuesday he followed that up with three and two-thirds innings of relief work to get the win.

Amazingly the Chargers won their last 10 games, all playoff contests. They finished the season 36-4.

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When the Charger baseball team arrived back in Oxford around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, a couple hundred supporters – those that either followed them from Jackson or those that met them at their home diamond, Edwin Moak Field – were ready for a late-night celebration.

Among those there to greet the team were the David Cutcliffe family. Chris Cutcliffe, the oldest of three Cutcliffe children, was a senior on the OHS baseball team.

I spoke for just a few minutes with the former Rebel head football coach, who looked quite well just over two months after heart bypass surgery. He said he was still feeling tired at times, like at that very moment since he had just returned from a trip down and back to the game in Jackson with wife Karen and daughters Katie and Emily, and of course was still up at midnight with all the goings-on at OHS.

It was good to see Coach Cut doing so well, continuing to get better, and enjoying the championship moment with his son and the family.

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