Record offense highlighting fall practice

Fall baseball practice is definitely a strange creature. It is difficult to be completely excited over the offense or pitching staff having tremendous streaks since it is at the expense of the other unit. Even so, Mike Bianco is elated over one fact – a power surge has occurred at Swayze Field.

Bianco has stats from six of his seven falls in Oxford, and one thing is for certain. This Ole Miss team is depositing baseballs beyond the blue wall at an unprecedented clip. Entering last Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage, the Rebels had 28 home runs, four more than the previous fall session record of 24.

The first thought is that more at-bats resulted in the larger numbers, but Bianco quickly dispelled that false theory. The average number of fall at-bats before this year was somewhere between 850 and 900. The new record has been achieved in just 550 at-bats.

"The ball has been flying out, and that is a good thing," Bianco said. "I think we all are certain that this team will pitch. The hitting has been a welcome sight."

Newcomers like Kyle Henson Cliff Vaughn have helped escalate the long ball numbers, but the majority of the increase can be attributed to noticeable power improvements from Evan Button, Brett Basham and Kyle Mills.

Mills launched two home runs over the weekend, while Button has connected for upward of five bombs this fall compared to only three all of last spring. Basham has been regarded as a great defensive catcher since arriving, and his offense has been anything but a setback lately.

"The biggest different is my summer in the Cape," Basham said. "Using a wood bat makes you stress fundamentals and get back down to basics. Taking a few months to gain confidence and get away has been unbelievable for me."

The unfortunate thing about the fall is that the Rebel pitchers have given up the increase in home runs. However, experienced hurlers Lance Lynn, Cody Satterwhite and Brett Bukvich have yet to take the mound.

Lynn is nursing a groin injury and Bukvich an offseason elbow surgery, while Satterwhite is being rested after a busy summer with Team USA. All three are throwing on the side and will be fine by Opening Day. No reason to take chances with the proven arms.

Although those three are momentarily sidelined, it isn't like the offense has put up record numbers against a lack of quality arms. 2007 cogs Nathan Baker, Scott Bittle and Justin Cryer are throwing multiple innings, while Phillip Irwin and Rory McKean are looking to increase last year's innings. Drew Pomeranz and David Goforth are the most impressive incoming hurlers.

So, with a few weeks left, the hitters continue to have an offensive heyday. Months are remaining before we find out what it actually means, but for now, it is a great thing.

"I can't be upset about the offense," Bianco said. "It is possible to always find something wrong when playing yourself, but hitting is what you consistently want to work. Our pitchers will come around. I'm not worried."

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