Putting some pieces of '08 together

The contract extension for Mike Bianco was a given and the right thing to do. But it was hardly a surprise. The fact that it was released as a story was for information purposes, not because it was some breaking news flash.

It's been an interesting 12 months for Ole Miss baseball. This time last year we watched as Miami played in the World Series after eliminating the Rebels. The year before it was Texas; this year Arizona State. Ole Miss has been so close to Omaha you could almost smell the steaks grilling.

The Rebels keep knocking, and the door will open some day. It could be next year.

There was some transition this year from former coaches to new coaches. There was a lot to work through, even on paper. With both of the Rebels' fulltime assistants, Dan McDonnell and Stuart Lake, leaving last summer, things were going to be different.

Pitching coach Kyle Bunn moved up for the first time in six years into a fulltime role; former player Carl Lafferty, who came back prior to the '06 season, moved into Bunn's volunteer coach role; and former player Matt Mossberg returned to the program this year in Lafferty's old role of administrative assistant. Rob Reinstetle may have had the biggest challenge of all, taking over Lake's hitting coach role and McDonnell's recruiting coordinator spot.

Throughout the summer we'll sit down with the baseball coaches one by one and get their take on last season and the future.

Bianco and company return a host of players who have a lot of experience under their belts. Team USA members Lance Lynn and Cody Satterwhite lead what will be another talented group of players who pitch for the Rebs. Other returnees who will be in the mix include freshman All-American Nathan Baker, Brett Bukvich, Scott Bittle, and Justin Cryer, all with at least 27 innings pitched this season.

Those with the most experience now gone are Will Kline, Craig Rodriguez, and Jesse Simpson.

Position players returning in the outfield are Logan Power and freshman All-American Jordan Henry. Justin Henry is gone. Fuller Smith also returns for his senior season and could be back in the outfield. Several juco outfielders come in this fall, including Michael Guerrero from Meridian CC, Michael Hubbard from Ft. Smith (Ark.) CC, and Jeremy Travis from Northeast Texas CC.

Cody Overbeck is back at third, with Zach Miller at second. Evan Button will play somewhere, and that's likely at shortstop. Will Button remain there? Fall ball will have a lot to say about that. But he will be the most experienced candidate for short in '08.

Sean Stuyverson of Okaloosa-Walton CC and a former Florida State shortstop, should also figure in at short. Incoming freshman Tim Ferguson of Beaumont, Texas, is another strong candidate there. He picked the Rebs over Rice.

First base is wide open again this year and will likely be manned by a newcomer, unless Button is in that role as he was a lot following the departure of Andrew Clark. I look for Cliff Vaughn, the freshman from Houston, Texas, to come in as the leader at that spot. I met Cliff and his dad this past week. Cliff was here for freshman orientation.

At 6-3 and 210, Vaughn was the quarterback of his football team at Memorial High in Houston, a Class 5A school in Texas. He appears to have a build which can hold more mass and muscle. Already a power guy, he has the type body that should be a lot stronger even after just a year in the weight program here. He should provide some more pop in the lineup in '08 and beyond.

Catcher is a position that has to improve. Two veterans return in Brett Basham and Alex Kliman, but Kyle Henson will be in the mix for that position. A juco transfer from San Jacinto in Texas, Henson was drafted out of high school in the 17th round by the Dodgers and picked Ole Miss over Texas.

Drew Pomeranz appears to be a draft and follow situation. The 6-foot-6 left-handed pitcher from Collierville, Tenn., High with strong Ole Miss ties was chosen in the 12th round by the Rangers. It could be one of those first day of class situations in August before we know for sure.

Another imcoming pitcher, Michael Park of Memphis, has been injured but is recovering from a stress fracture in his back. As reported Friday in a story here, Park says he should be ready to pitch this fall.

There are others who will be in the mix. The Rebels have 17 new players arriving. We'll continue to have some stories with the players throughout the summer.

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