Baseball Begins Fall Practice Friday
Sept. 14, 2016
OXFORD, Miss. – While fall is a time where Major League Baseball begins to wrap up its season, it is only the beginning for the Ole Miss baseball team. With the academic year already one month in the books, the Rebels will officially begin fall practice Friday afternoon, Sept. 18, by taking Swayze Field for the first of many intrasquad scrimmages throughout the next seven weekends.
The first scrimmage will begin at 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon, while the Rebels will wrap up opening weekend with an intrasquad battle Sunday at 6:15 p.m. All fall scrimmages are free admission and open to the public.
“I think it’s always an exciting time,” said head coach Mike Bianco. “After the season ends, you go through the summer and start preparing for next year. We’ve gone through the skill portion of the fall, but now we get to have everybody out on the field at one time, and I think everyone is excited about it.”
The Rebels are coming off a 2016 season in which they tied a school record with 40 regular season wins, went 43-19 overall and hosted an NCAA Regional for the seventh time in the last 13 seasons.
Despite losing six Rebels to the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft, Ole Miss returns several veterans who provided big impacts on the field last season. Infielders Tate Blackman, Colby Bortles and Will Golsan return, all with at least two years of playing experience in the SEC. Meanwhile on the mound, Will Stokes is back as one of the leaders in the bullpen along with three 2015 Freshmen All-America honorees: Brady Feigl, James McArthur and Andy Pagnozzi.
The veterans welcome 18 newcomers to the team as well, one of the best recruiting classes in the nation and arguably the best incoming classes in school history. The group features seven high school All-Americans and one junior college All-American. Five were listed in Perfect Game’s top-100 high school players, more than any other school in the country. Seven were tabbed as top-500 prospects throughout baseball, including the college ranks; however, they all decided to come to Ole Miss to play in front of the best atmosphere in college baseball at Swayze Field.
“When we look at the guys that we’re returning, we have some people at key positions in the field and on the mound. Along with one of the best recruiting class in the country, we’ll have freshmen that will be taking the field for the first time, said Bianco. “This team, when you look at the roster, is dominated by freshmen and sophomores, but it certainly has players that have competed in the Southeastern Conference.”
With a mix of veterans and talented newcomers, fall practice is a time where players begin to battle for starting positions in the spring. Bianco, who enters his 17th season at Ole Miss as the winningest coach in school history, is looking forward to seeing how things play out.
“There’s competition at every position,” said Bianco “On the mound, we lost our Friday starter (Brady Bramlett) but returned a lot of arms; some of those guys will play some different roles for us. Behind the plate, we lost an All-SEC catcher (Henri Lartigue) but have Nick Fortes back and a couple of outstanding freshmen. We lost a tremendous shortstop in Errol (Robinson), but return a couple of guys that have been displaced out of shortstop for a year or two. I think it’s going to be an exciting fall for us to not only implement our system, but also be able to sit back and see what we have here and where they’re going to end up this spring.
While the current team starts fall practice, former Ole Miss players will gather together for Alumni Weekend in conjunction with the football team’s game versus No. 1 Alabama. The Friday night event will take place from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at the Pavilion Club inside The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Any baseball alumni interested in attending can RSVP at OleMissMClub.org.
“We decided to pick one football game per year to invite the players back. It’s a one-night gathering to get everyone together again,” noted Bianco. “We’re really looking forward to it, and it should be a huge weekend for Ole Miss Athletics.
For the latest news and updates involving Ole Miss Baseball, follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissBSB, on Facebook at Ole Miss Baseball on Instagram at olemissbsb and now on Snapchat at OleMissBSB. Fans can also follow head coach Mike Bianco on Twitter at @CoachMikeBianco.
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