Ole Miss Baseball Holds Media Day
Head coach Mike Bianco answers questions at Ole Miss Baseball's Media Day Tuesday afternoon
Feb. 16, 2016

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Ole Miss Baseball Head Coach Mike Bianco, junior Colby Bortles, redshirt-junior Brady Bramlett and shortstop Errol Robinson met with the media Tuesday afternoon to talk about the Rebels' 2016 season, which begins at home Friday versus Florida International. (4 p.m. CT, SECN+). Coach Bianco also discussed the announcement regarding upgrades to Swayze Field.

Coach Bianco

Opening Statement...
"We will talk about the release this morning. Hopefully it came as a surprise to most of you, because that is what the goal was. As I read the release at 9 o’clock this morning, I heard beeping outside. There was a big crane in front of the stadium, and I got all excited. I said, 'Boy, Ross Bjork does not mess around. 9:30 a.m. and there is already a crane outside.' Of course Jake Scott, my director of operations, said, 'Coach, he is just cleaning the windows.' Anyway, we will talk about that in a few minutes. Like I think all coaches and players on the 300 plus teams in the country, it is an exciting time to see the start of the season on Friday. Before I get into that, there are a couple of guys that I want to introduce. First, make note that Stephen Head, one of our former coaches and great player here, left two months ago to take a job as a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. We moved one of our directors of operations, Marc MacMillan, into the volunteer assistant coach role, along with Mike Clement who is in his second year, and Carl Lafferty is our recruiting coordinator and pitching coach. I will talk a little about the team and the news from this morning. One of the things I talk about when asked about this year’s team is that it seems that last year’s weaknesses are this year’s strengths. And what I mean by that is, last year, in this moment in front of the microphone, I wanted to believe that we returned a good group of kids from the 2014 team that went to the College World Series. The truth of the matter is, we returned three freshmen that really were outstanding, but were in a totally different role. Looking at those guys now, they aren’t freshman or starting their sophomore years anymore. They are juniors. When I look at the position players, Adam (Kuffner) put in the media guide that we return seven of nine starters. The truth of the matter is on opening day, the 10 guys more than likely in the lineup would have started last year, including the pitcher. We’re as old and as experienced as we probably have ever been as a position player group. Last year, one of the weaknesses was our pitching depth. After a few injuries, I think that was quite evident. We just showed our lack of depth on the mound. We fixed that by signing 11 pitchers in this current recruiting class that is on campus right now. I think that is the most that we have ever signed in a recruiting class."

On the starting lineup...
"I’ll start with the position players. At third base, we return Colby Bortles at third. Colby started just about every game at third last year after a freshman year where he came on as a star in the postseason. Last year, he took over the third base position and played about as well defensively as I can remember anyone playing defense here at third base. He also hit seven home runs. At shortstop is Errol Robinson. He starts this year for his third-straight year. He has a lot of preseason accolades. Preseason All-American, he was voted by the scouting directors of professional baseball as the number one college shortstop in the country. You have to feel good when you return players on the left side of the infield. At second base is Tate Blackman. He had a tough freshman year, where a year ago we were talking about his preseason accolades before he stepped onto the field as a college baseball player. It was a tough year for Tate, but he swung it as well as anyone in the fall and early spring. I’m very proud of the way he has handled himself and has come back his sophomore year expecting to have a nice year. At first base, we have Will Golsan. A little different than Sikes Orvis at first, but excited to have someone as athletic as Will at the position. The way he can play defense and move around, I think, will add to how well we can defend and how athletic we are. Will had a great season for us offensively last year. He batted in the three-hole a lot as a true freshman. Behind the plate is Henri Lartigue. Henri is ready to have a monster year. He had a great fall for us and swung it statistically as well as anyone on the team. He bats on both sides of the plate, can really throw and handles the pitchers well. Very intelligent and easy to communicate with the signals. In the outfield, I’m not too sure. We will have several different lineups for the first weekend including a couple different rotations out there. Expect Connor Cloyd to return in left field. Connor was our leading hitter last year. He goes into his senior year and can really handle the left side of the plate. In center field, we will have J.B. Woodman. J.B. was a freshman All-American a couple years ago. It’s funny, a lot of people didn’t think he had a good year last year, but I look and see seven home runs and just a super athlete. He has probably, when people ask about improvement and people ask about who to look for, played as well as anyone from the position players form the fall to this point right now. I’m excited and I think he is going to have a big year for us. In right field, we return Cameron Dishon. Cameron had a good year for us last year. He stole about 20 bases and I think he has a chance to play every day and steal even more bases. Someone too look for is true freshman D.J. Miller. Last year, we got to this point last year and started Kyle Watson on opening day in the outfield because we didn’t have the depth in outfield. Now, we have a true freshman that led the team in hitting last fall and spring. I’m not sure if he will get a start in the outfield, but he definitely will be in the starting lineup as a DH or somewhere in the outfield before the weekend is over. Holt Perdzock returns as a senior. He could return as a DH or could play in the outfield. Of course, Kyle Watson, who played so much for us last year." On the mound, the rotation will go Brady Bramlett on Friday, Chad Smith on Saturday. He (Chad) is a junior college transfer from Wallace State in Alabama. And Sean Johnson on Sunday. Sean was slated early on to be a weekend starter last year, but went down with an elbow injury. After surgery and almost a year out now, he is a great competitor and has earned the nod to be the Sunday starter now. The closer this year will be Wyatt Short. Will Stokes will also be in the bullpen. With so many new names on the mound, that is where our question mark is. For guys like Andrew Lowe, David Parkinson and James McArthur who could be weekday starters or guys who would throw before Stokes and Short. Some other young guys, Dallas Woolfolk, Connor Green, Andy Pagnozzi, and another arm that was injured last year but is now back and terrific in Brady Feigl. One of the things that we really like about this team, and it's evident because of some of the things I have already said, is that we are so athletic. I think we are really going to run. We are going to be able to steal some bases. And not only does that come with the athleticism, but we are older. It has been my experience that, when you are older, you tend to run more. One of the reasons for that is the older guys play with a little more confidence. If you remember, the 2014, 2009 and 2006 teams with older position guys stole more. On the field, I certainly think we will be good defensively."

On the new videoboards and announced upgrades to Swayze Field...
"If you will notice in the stadium a new videoboard. We know for sure it is the top three or four biggest screens in college baseball. Also in the stadium are the ribbon boards over the concession stands that will help the people in the outfield keep up with the player’s statistics. As was mentioned this morning in the release, we are excited to talk a little bit about the master plan for the future of this stadium and for Ole Miss Baseball. When I start to think about it, we are sitting in a stadium that I consider the best in college baseball. This plan came up when I came up to Ross a year ago. We are standing in this stadium with a new renovation from 2009. The ideas from the renovation started in 2004 or 2005. The renovation that was done in 2009, not much was done for the players. Most of it was done because we outgrew the old stadium. We had to put more seats and put in premium seats, and we cosmetically dressed up the player’s locker room and facilities, but not by much. This upgrade is really centered around the student-athlete and their experience here. It will include a new locker room, a training room, a player’s lounge, a player’s meeting room, new batting cages, new indoor batting cages, new pitching tunnel, along with a new weight room that will be here in our facility. Along with those upgrades, there will be some upgraded seating options for our fans. Behind home plate, the vision is to build a dugout club and bring the backstop and fans a little closer to home where the action is. We could give them a club level experience like it is up here (in the Diamond Club). We have seating options out in the left field corner and enhancing the terrace out in left field. I certainly am excited to announce it but also really honored. With arguably the best facility already, to have an administration, a strong fan base, and to speak with all the media present, it shows baseball is important here. As a coach, it makes you proud that people care about baseball that much that we are going to make another upgrade for our great student-athletes and our great fans."


 

 

On Will Golsan...
“Will Golsan had an outstanding freshman year. One of the things that I think people will notice right off the bat is his body. Physically, he looks different. He doesn’t look like Sikes Orvis, but different physically. He actually hit a home run this past weekend in an intrasquad game. As everyone else, after you get through freshman year, your maturity and your confidence grows. Last year, we may have heard him say just a couple of words throughout the whole season, but he is smiling more and feels more comfortable. After having such a good freshman year, usually when you feel like that your sophomore year, good things are going to happen.”

On Tate Blackman...

“One thing is Tate’s swing has gotten shorter. I think Tate is able to move more balls. You have to remember, last year at this time he played really well in the fall. That is one of the reasons everybody was so high on him. It is one of the reasons a lot of college baseball pundits were so high on him. He was playing very well and people were talking about him. He is a very talented kid. To this point, nothing much has changed. He has done most of that. But, one of the things I like other than the physical and shortening of his swing, is the way he has handled it. It is tough. I think he would admit that it was a very tough year for him and not just statistically. To come in and have that type of expectation put on you and not produce like he did, and hover around .200, to the point that at the end you are not really even playing. He’s really handled himself well. He has a great personality. I love that he is always smiling and wants to be around. He has never hid from it. A lot of guys that would have had his same expectations and results as a freshman probably would have tried to play a little different role this year, but he has never shied away from it. He worked really hard this summer. He has had a good fall. He has maybe had the best spring in these last three weeks of anybody on the team.”

On the batting order...
“I won’t give you the lineup one through nine, I haven’t figured that one out yet. Chances are before Friday I’ll probably write three lineups out. They (Florida International) released their starting rotation and that’s one of the reasons I don’t have it yet, because they just released their rotation this morning. They’ll start right handers on Friday and Saturday, and they don’t know who will start on Sunday yet. Look for Errol (Robinson) or Connor Cloyd, to lead off on Friday night and/or Saturday. In the middle of the lineup, look for guys like J.B. Woodman, (Colby) Bortles, (Henri) Lartigue, (Tate) Blackman and those types of guys in the middle of the lineup.”

On asking for renovations...
“I’ve always tried to not be the guy who’s said ‘hey we need this to recruit.’ We already have an outstanding stadium and we’ve always felt Ole Miss and Oxford are easy to recruit to. In fairness, yes, our stadium on the outside is as nice as anyone’s.  On the inside our locker rooms, compared to our competitors and who we compete against in the Southeastern Conference, are in need of some upgrades. I think when a recruit looks at our facility in the future, there’s no doubt when he walks out he’ll say that its one of the best facilities in the country.”

On Coach Clement...
"I think it is a great help to have him back for a second year. I think the longer you are around a particular system and the more that you are around a group of players, there is a comfort level there. In fairness, when Coach Clement came here last year, we had lost nine guys off of a team that went to the College World Series. Nine guys that got drafted. A lot of those guys had their best year in their last year as an Ole Miss Rebel. Like I said, we were so young last year. I think if you draw it up as a hitting coach, it is probably not a dream to come into that. I believe I saw somewhere that Adam Kuffner (Media Relations Director) said around 71 percent of our at-bats were taken by first or second year guys last year. At times we showed that. At times we showed our inexperience and how difficult this league can be. Watching them this year we look like a different team. Their attitude level, their confidence level and the speed at which they play, looks very different. I know one of the things Coach Clement really concentrated on this fall was to cut down the strikeouts. You could tell during the fall that he certainly did that. Again, I think it is going to look like a different offense this year." 

On the balance of the non-conference schedule...
“You do the schedule, especially the weekends, so far out. Not to know who you are going to be and how young, I don’t know if last year was the best timing to have the most difficult schedule in the country with that young of a team. I think FIU being one of the teams who are regularly in a regional will be a test right off the bat for us. The second weekend with Louisville coming in, a top 2 team in the country, with veteran arms, it will test this team for sure. Then we get to go on the road in a tournament style, which we haven’t done in a while. As you know I like to go on the road at least once before we start conference play. It sets up well but there will certainly be some tests. I think these guys, after going through the schedule they went through last year, are ready for it.”

Brady Bramlett

On being the Friday night starter...
"I'm excited; the goal for any starter is to give your team a chance to win. On Fridays, you really have a chance to set the tone for the weekend. I'm thrilled to be in that position. I'm confident stepping into that role. I really think it is going to be a special year for our staff and for this team."


Colby Bortles
 
On the offense and replacing Sikes Orvis...
“I think the main goal is to be a run producer. With that, you have to get people on to drive them in. I don’t think I’m replacing Sikes (Orvis); there’s a lot of people in the lineup that can produce power and drive people in and hit home runs. We have a lot of power in our order, so we can be run producers.”

On expectations of this season compared to last season...
“I think after going to Omaha, we all had big expectations. We were confident just like we are going into this year. I guess last season didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, but you have to pick it up and move on. I feel like we are even more confident going into this year. We are looking forward to a good season.”

Errol Robinson

On expectations of this season compared to last season...
“It is really exciting when you think about this year. Last year didn’t end up the way we wanted it to. Getting booted after two games in a regional is not what any team wants. I think coming back this year we still feel the fire from losing so early in the regional. I feel like that is fueling us to be better this year and know that we can be better with all of the experience that is coming back"




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