Sunday Night Notes: Rebs No. 1?

Ole Miss rolled on the opening weekend of the 2008 season with a three-game sweep of Minnesota. Go inside for more info after the Rebels' first action of the new year.

New No. 1?

Ole Miss took care of the visiting Gophers in impressive fashion and may have positioned itself to be the top-ranked team in America when the new Baseball America poll is released tomorrow. The Rebels are the highest ranked team to sweep, as the three teams in front of them all lost one game. No. 1 UCLA split two games with unranked Oklahoma. No. 2 Arizona took two of three at unranked Georgia. No. 3 Vanderbilt dropped No. 7 Oregon State but fell to No. 9 Arizona State convincingly. I expect Arizona to occupy the top spot with the Rebs at two, but it is also very possible for Ole Miss to slip into No. 1. Out of the top 10 teams, Ole Miss arguably had the second-best week. Arizona State drilled Vanderbilt and Oregon State, but the Sun Devils were grossly underrated at No. 9 by Baseball America, so for now at least, they won't be the top-ranked team. However, Arizona State and Ole Miss could very well be the top two respectively in the Collegiate Baseball poll. They are currently three and four. Tomorrow will be interesting and could be rewarding for followers of Ole Miss baseball.

Clearing the Bench

The following players all saw action this weekend for Ole Miss. Jordan Henry, Michael Hubbard, Cody Overbeck, Evan Button, Logan Power, Michael Guerrero, Sean Stuyverson, Zach Miller, Tim Ferguson, Matt Smith, Justin Cryer, Brett Basham, Lance Lynn, Scott Bittle, David Kindred, Jeremy Travis, Brett Bukvich, Kyle Mills, Fuller Smith, Zach Rutland, Nathan Baker, Jake Morgan, Drew Pomeranz, Matt Tracy, Garrett Duff, Scott Haltom, Cody Satterwhite, Rory McKean, Wade Broyles and Thomas Flautt.

That is 17 position players and 12 pitchers used by Mike Bianco this weekend. The redshirt situation is beginning to clear up because it was the perfect opportunity to get any person not redshirting some playing time. Hence, I expect all the players above to be used this season.

The following is strictly my opinion from what I have heard and seen. Redshirts are Michael Park, Cliff Vaughn, Logan Williams, Josh Thomason and Yogi Gunther. David Goforth wasn't used this weekend, but I am hearing he may still play a role this season, so I am not ready to put him in that category with the others. Williams is the most surprising because of his bat, but the team is deep enough that a right-handed bat off the bench isn't necessary from a true freshman.

Others not mentioned thus far are Kyle Henson, Phillip Irwin, Cullan Kight and Kevin Parker. Henson was ruled ineligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse because of an error in filling out one of his forms. His case should be settled in a day or two, so it isn't an alarming situation. Kight was suspended three games for an off-the-field incident and is expected back for Tuesday's game against Northwestern State. Speaking of the Demons, Irwin will start Tuesday on the mound, while Pomeranz gets the nod Wednesday. Parker is injured, and there is no timetable for his availability.

Matt Smith Update

The freshman felt a little better Sunday, but tests will be performed Monday to see the extent of his elbow injury. Bianco had said that Kight and Ferguson were the two leaders at first base if significant time is missed by Smith, but that may no longer be the case because of Stuyverson. The junior transfer compiled three hits Sunday and played a solid third base. If Stuyverson continues to handle the hot corner, then Overbeck stays at first, since he is the team's best defensive option at that position.

Stat Talk

I know it is the first weekend, but 14 players are hitting over .300 and seven at .500 or better, while the team is hitting .413 and has a .503 on-base percentage after three games. Overbeck is the offensive player of the series, tallying 16 total bases, a .500 average and three home runs. All three of his longballs have come in the fifth inning of games with two on Saturday and one Sunday.

Ole Miss was perfect on seven stolen base attempts with four of those coming from Henry. The Rebels fielded .980 with two errors in 100 chances. Hubbard walked four times and didn't play Saturday.

As a team, Ole Miss posted an ERA of 2.00 and struckout 39 Gophers while walking eight. Lynn, Satterwhite and Baker hold opposing batting averages of .118, .176 and .167 respectively. Lynn's eight strikeouts to open the season were the most impressive thing of the weekend. I expect him and Overbeck to get strong consideration for SEC Player of the Week honors.

Pitching Summary

It was almost a perfect weekend. The three starters yielded zero earned runs and settled into grooves at some point during their outings. The most exciting thing to me was the displayed depth. Bittle and McKean were basically flawless in multiple innings, while Tracy, Pomeranz and Morgan all showed things to be happy about. I am anxious to see more Pomeranz on Wednesday. His 94 MPH fastball from the left side is difficult to deal with. Although, it was far from a save situation at any point of the weekend, Cryer topped 90 on the gun and was effective in the closer role. The thing that stuck out was how many Rebel pitchers can power a fastball by opposing hitters. The heat isn't necessary to succeed, but it comes in handy when trying to work out of jams. Bianco's challenge may be defining roles and figuring out who gets which innings with the depth situation like it is.

Offensive Summary

There was speed. There was power. There were opportunities taken advantage of. The lineup can be a monster to face because of the versatility and ability to make something happen from top to bottom. Henry provides plenty of problems in the leadoff spot, and every hitter behind him has home run potential. Guerrero and Hubbard were the most impressive newcomers, and Travis made a case for more playing time. Basham and Stuyverson both hit the ball well and will be vital to the team's success. Basham is one of the top defensive catchers in the nation, so anything you get offensively is a bonus. The bonus this weekend was a grand slam and a respectable .273 average. Stuyverson producing at third base will take most of the sting away from the Matt Smith injury if it is serious. The Florida State transfer appeared comfortable at that defensive spot and can hit for average and power on the backside of the lineup. It should be fun to watch the offensive niches be ironed out over the next couple weeks.

Overall Summary

Bianco has boasted about Ole Miss' talent and depth for many months now, and we all saw that he wasn't kidding. It is just the first week, and there are lots of games left, but the Rebels appear to be built for the long haul. For three games at least, the No. 4 ranking was more than justified. And you never know, there could be a No. 1 beside Ole Miss starting tomorrow.

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