Feb. 6, 2018
By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. - Will Golsan finds it hard to believe how rapidly time has flown by. Long ago are the days in which he was a scrappy 9th-grader making sporadic starts as a defensive shortstop for at New Hope High School, usually being DH’d for.
Twelve days from now, Golsan will suit up four his fourth and final opening day at Swayze Field. He’ll run onto the field with the captain’s “C” on his chest, out to yet another new position in center field. He’ll take in the scene and hopefully allow himself a moment to appreciate the beginning of one final ride.
“It feels like it’s barely been two (years),” Golsan said. “It flew by. I can’t believe it is my senior year. I am ready for it and ready to soak it all in.”
His career has been a model for consistency. Golsan hasn’t missed a start in over two years. In the 177 games Ole Miss has played since he set foot on campus, he’s participated in all but five and started 163. His equipment bag has featured every type of baseball glove available expect a catcher’s mitt. Golsan’s played six different positions for a variety of different reasons, the most important being that he’s always been willing to adapt.
From third base, to second, to first, to dancing across the outfield, he’s been a Swiss Army Knife of sorts and given head coach Mike Bianco a sizable amount of flexibility over the last three seasons. You know what you’re going to get with Golsan. He hovers around .300, he’s got above average speed with power to the gaps and doesn’t strike out. He’s whiffed just 95 times in 738 plate appearances. He led the team in multi-hit games as a freshman and last year hit .322 in SEC play and led the team in hits with 69.
He’s been a contributor since day one, so much so that it even surprised his high school coach.
“I figured he’d redshirt and contribute as a sophomore and junior,” New Hope head baseball coach Lee Boyd said. “But I think Will will tell you that he just wanted to play, and was willing to do whatever was needed.”
Golsan’s career in the field began in 2015 by making spot starts at second and third base as the Rebels tried to replace the likes of Preston Overby and Austin Anderson, two important cogs of an Ole Miss team that went to Omaha for the first time in over 40 years.
He hit well enough to eventually take over the everyday second base job as Tate Blackman battled the natural struggles that come with a freshman trying to get acclimated to SEC pitching. He hasn’t left the lineup since.
“I was pretty open-minded,” Golsan said. “Errol was here my freshman year and I knew he had shortstop locked up, and Colby at third, second was open. Me and Tate had a good competition and he won it. I got moved into it in the middle of the season and just went after it from there.”
The next year was a similar story at a different location. Bianco didn’t seem to have a natural fit at first base to replace slugger Sikes Orvis, so Golsan slipped on a first baseman’s mitt without a second thought and the transition was complete. He’s since moved to the outfield, a place that once felt foreign that now feels like his home.
“I knew I was versatile coming out of high school and could move around,” Golsan said. "I figured I would stay somewhere in the infield, but getting moved to the outfield I have come to love it. It’s where my dad played. I feel like it is pretty natural to me now.”
Golsan has moved around so much that pegging him to a single position seems arbitrary. He’s most accurately known as simply a ball player.
“He’s about as selfless as you can be as a player and also as good of a player as you can be,” Bianco said. “He’s played all over and never blinked every time we have asked him to take on a new role. He has always said yes and done well. I think that is what makes him a special player and our captain.”
As quiet as he may seem at times, he’s every bit as demonstrative with his actions. Golsan’s as level headed and consistent as they come and believes leading by performance is just as loud his voice. Boyd is all too familiar with this as he’s watched Golsan grow from a 9th-grade defensive specialist, to back-to-back state champion, to a four-year starter in the SEC.
“He was just one of those guys that showed up early and alway hustled,” Boyd said. “When your best players are your hardest workers you know you have a chance to have a good team. He has always been a quiet kid that doesn’t say a whole lot. But he just shows up and plays so hard it rubs off on the other guys.”
Golsan became every day shortstop at New Hope as a sophomore and hit .360. He wasn’t necessarily firmly on the radar as a college prospect yet, but it gave Boyd hope for a strong junior season. What he got was far beyond that. Golsan set Mississippi high school baseball ablaze. He hit a staggering .516 with 63 hits and 18 doubles in 36 games and his trademark consistency at the plate beamed as bright as ever.
“For him to put up those numbers against the quality of competition we played is tremendous,” Boyd said. “I don’t know what it is about his swing. He is just one of those guys that makes consistent contact, and even when he doesn’t hit it as well, he is so fast he can beat out an average arm. Maybe that’s the kicker. I am honestly not really sure.”
That summer he hit .430 with 10 runs scored and 7 stolen bases for team Mississippi at the Junior Sunbelt Classic in Oklahoma. Boyd remembers that week most notably for his phone ringing uncontrollably with college coaches wanting to know more about his red hot shortstop.
“That week I remember several people calling my phone over-and-over again and it was like, man, he doesn’t have a Division I offer yet and within three days everyone was calling about him,” Boyd said. “Will was kind of a late bloomer. It happened so fast. He kind of flew under the radar because no one saw that junior year coming.”
Golsan’s uncanny consistency intrigues Boyd as it does most people. It didn’t really add up. How can one produce to that degree but seemingly fly under the radar.
“He’s like the quiet 2-for-4. You get the stat sheet and you’re like ‘Who had hits today. Oh Golsan had three? Really?’ You look up and all of a sudden he’s got a couple hits and a couple stolen bases. It’s hard to explain,” Boyd recalled.
It’s almost as if Golsan’s production has become so expected it’s at times almost forgotten. Bianco thinks he’s among the most consistent players he’s ever coached, even adding an all-time Ole Miss great as a comparison.
“He’s been as consistent as they come,” Bianco said. “I think the guy that comes to mind is Logan Power, a similar type of consistent player that is sometimes the forgotten one. Not by us the coaches, but by the media and publications. He is a guy at the end of the day,v like Logan, is a huge reason for your success.”
Golsan doesn’t mind. He just wants to suit up and play. The last two teams he has been on have relied on freshmen to come in and contribute immediately. Naturally, he’s been seen as a model for what they should try to emulate.
“I think they know me from leading by action,” Golsan said. “I have been open with the freshmen and tried to guide them with my experience and make them better. Just doing the nit-picky things. Getting here early and getting some swings in, asking them to come hit with you at night in the cages. All the things y’all don’t see and just spending time with them.”
All that’s missing from Golsan’s body of work is a deep postseason run. That’s really all that will be on his mind over the course of the next five months. But when asked about his legacy when he does hang up the Ole Miss uniform for one final time, Golsan paused and delivered an answer as steady as the career he’s putting together.
“I hope it’s that I was a team player, that I moved around all over the field and was a great teammate to my brothers here,” Golsan said. Other than that, I’d like to be remembered for for how I played the game.”