Ole Miss Baseball Opens Practice for 2017 Season
Jan. 27, 2017

By Dylan Edwards, OleMissSports.com

OXFORD, Miss. - The calendar moving towards February means one thing every year: Ole Miss Baseball is drawing near. On a chilly Friday, the Rebels held their first practice of 2017 to begin the Road to Omaha.

While Ole Miss does not have a roster laden with upperclassmen, the Rebels have plenty of talent. That becomes the case when a team brings in the No. 1 ranked class in the nation as Ole Miss did.

"Overall, the work ethic (has stood out)," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "Guys come to play every single day. This recruiting class, so many people have said so many positive things about them. From the day they've stepped on the field, not only have they played well but they've act like they belong to a team. What can happen a lot of times when they're talented, they make sure they're going to play. They think more starter over player instead of being an Ole Miss baseball player."

It's one thing to have talent, but it's also important to have players that have been through the grind of a season. Fortunately, the Rebels did return two mainstays in the middle of last season's batting order in senior Colby Bortles and junior Tate Blackman.

"We have eight upperclassmen, juniors and seniors, and only two seniors," Bianco said. "(Bortles) is the last guy to play in a College World Series. He's the guy that reached the pinnacle of college baseball. Besides the statistics of his play on the field, his leadership and what he means in the dugout and locker room probably means more"

Bortles, along with Sean Johnson, are the only seniors on the team. Bortles is embracing the role as the elder statesman of the team.

"My role every year is to do whatever I have to do to take this team to Omaha," Bortles said. "We work towards that every practice and every game. I'm looking forward to being a leader on this team."

Since the Ole Miss dugout will be filled with talented baseball players, the early portion of the season will likely see Bianco switch the rotation and lineup around to give different guys playing time.

"We're very talented on both sides of the plate," Blackman said. "Our backups could be better than our starters. We're a very talented team. It's a good problem to have."

Ole Miss begins the season on February 17, hosting No. 6 East Carolina. In the three weeks before first pitch, the Rebels have some areas they want to continue to build momentum from fall ball.

"We have to come out and swing like we did in the fall," Bianco said. "We need to shore up the rotation, for sure. We really like the staff. We really like the depth of it and the potential starters and relievers, but we have to figure it out to be comfortable that first weekend."


 

 

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