That South Alabama was in the NCAA's Oxford Regional last June meant that a traditional baseball school with a solid team would be one of the hurdles Ole Miss might have to face to get to a Super Regional.
When the Jaguars got here, Rebel fans saw one of the most potent batting lineups they'd seen all season, and that included some heavy hitters in the SEC. South Alabama posted a school-record 707 hits last season while compiling a team batting average of .326, which tied the school's single-season mark in that department.
But when UM assistant coach Dan McDonnell left Ole Miss to become head coach at Louisville before June was over, it was the recruiting coordinator's position that Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco was trying to fill. When a few days later another UM assistant, Stuart Lake, left to take a position with The Citadel baseball program, Bianco needed a recruiting coordinator AND a hitting coach.
South Alabama assistant coach Rob Reinstetle fit those Ole Miss needs perfectly.
It's been smooth sailing for Reinstetle and the Rebels since the summer. In fall intrasquads, the Rebels showed signs of good hitting against what many would consider a great pitching staff. Then last weekend the Rebels opened the season not necessarily as an offensive juggernaut but as a solid hitting ballclub that doesn't strike out much.
As a matter of fact, against New Orleans in 7-2 and 4-0 victories, the Rebels didn't strike out a single time.
"I don't think I've ever been a part of a team that did that two straight days," said Reinstetle, who also headed up the efforts that brought in a quality class of newcomers to Rebel baseball last fall. "We had a lot of guys that did some good things (last weekend). But we can be better than we were."
The players have talked about some differences Reinstetle brings to the program. Some practice techniques and philosophies are different, but all in all it comes back to hitting the baseball and making things happen offensively.
"Things are much more intense," veteran Rebel C.J. Ketchum said. "The philosophies are similar, but things are not quite as laidback. I think you can already see some results."
Ketchum said hitting isn't always something that has to be dealt with as far as making constant changes. But when changes are needed, it's good to have some instruction and someone to see what's going on.
"Guys who make it to this level can hit or they wouldn't be here," said Ketchum, a senior and one of the team's most consistent hitters and run producers the past couple of seasons. "But when you're struggling or need to get some things straightened out, it's good to have some help. He (Reinstetle) has been good for us in that area."
Redshirt freshman Zach Miller said Reinstetle wants the hitters to come out swinging, so to speak.
"He knows a lot about hitting, and he wants us to be aggressive early," Miller said. "He wants us to stay aggressive at the plate but also to be smart with our at-bats. He really stays on top of things and does a good job of instructing us.
"When the weather's been bad and we've gone indoors, he has a lot of important drills that help us improve," Miller continued. "You can tell everything is very organized with how he wants things done, and he's been a positive addition to the program for us."
The 29-year-old Ohio native said he's glad to be a part of Ole Miss and Oxford.
"First of all, I really enjoy being at Ole Miss," said Reinstetle, at South Alabama for only one season but at College of Charleston for two seasons before that where all three seasons his teams ranked in the top 10 nationally for batting average. "The community really embraces baseball here which is something that is exciting for me. The university is outstanding. We have all the resources to be successful and allow me to do my job for Coach (Mike) Bianco. I have everything I need and that's the best thing you can ask for as an assistant coach."
Reinstetle said that being here with the Jaguars last June helped him to understand the magnitude of interest in college baseball in this area.
"Coming here and playing and seeing the atmosphere, seeing more than 8,000 people at the games was amazing," he said. "I've been to LSU for Regionals, been to Clemson for Regionals, and this was the best."
The baseball coaching fraternity is rather connected and unique in a lot of ways. Reinstetle knew former Rebel assistants McDonnell and Lake quite well.
"Dan (McDonnell) and Stuart (Lake) both know me very well," he said. "I replaced Stuart when he left College of Charleston to come to Ole Miss (prior to the 2003-04 school year). And before that when I was coaching in junior college (at Okaloosa-Walton in Niceville, Fla), Dan was one of the few SEC coaches who would really talk to me. He kind of took me under his wing. I really looked up to Dan and appreciate how he helped me in my career."
Reinstetle said he has been very pleased with the relationship he's developed with the Ole Miss players and the attitude and willingness they've shown to work with him to improve their games, especially the veterans and team leaders.
"Guys like (Zack) Cozart and (Justin) Henry are awesome because they are technically our better players and our hardest workers," he said. "They really took to what I was talking about early, and that just makes it easier because it trickles down. When your better guys are buying into it the guys below them, the younger guys and new guys, all buy into it as well. It was an easy transition and it went well."
Bianco said he and Reinstetle share a lot of the same philosophies when it comes to college baseball.
"The more we sat down this (past) summer and talked about offensive philosophy, it's amazing how similar our approaches both physically and mentally are," Bianco said. "That is something important to me because I wasn't looking to re-invent things here. It was nice to find somebody that had similar beliefs."
"It was interesting when I came on my interview with Coach (Bianco), I thought I was going to throw some stuff at him, not that he'd never heard of, but things that I thought were going to be unique to me," he said. "Low and behold, my philosophies were largely the same as his, which I think is one of the reasons he felt comfortable with me because you don't have to worry about somebody coming in with different thoughts and ideas. I had the same thoughts, philosophies, and principles as he did. Now my job is just to back up what he's been teaching his whole career and make it work here."
And then there's recruiting, the lifeblood of the program. Ole Miss has done very well in attracting top players to the baseball program the past few years. Reinstetle said that while he has his own style and approach to doing things, some of it closely resembles the way the Rebels have done things in the recent past.
"I approach recruiting similarly to Dan," he said. "I'll be very aggressive with my recruiting. I want to be the first there and the last to leave. Of course we still have to coach them when we get them, but I'll work very hard to get them."
Reinstetle said it's now good to be a part of a program that he respected and admired as a visitor last June, from the coaches to the players, and yes, even to the fans.
"Walking to the bus after we lost (in the Regional), there were Ole Miss fans lining the sidewalk shaking hands with us and the players and complimenting us," he said. "It was just a first-class environment, a place I knew that if I ever had a chance to coach I would jump at it."
Less than a month later, he got that chance. Now his first season at Ole Miss is underway.
The Rebels, ranked 13th and 2-0 on the season, host 21st-ranked Evansville, 2-1 on the year, Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. each day.
Addition of Reinstetle a plus for UM baseball
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