Rebel Baseball Looking for Offensive Spark this Fall
Sept. 22, 2017
By Davis McCool, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. – As fall ball gets going for the Diamond Rebels this year, the team’s veterans and coaches alike are placing a heavy emphasis on improving the hitting campaign from a year ago. This year’s group will look familiar to many, as seven of the nine most prominent starters from last year have returned, as well as nine Rebels that played in at least 30 games offensively.
Though the team will be without two of its most dynamic players from last year (Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles), a few veterans are poised to step into the positions left vacant by the former captains, including the lone two seniors on offense, Will Golsan and Tim Rowe.
When it comes to stepping up at the plate, no one has been more consistent than Golsan. He boasted an impressive .312 batting average a year ago, good for second on the team, and he also led the Rebels in hits (69), and multiple-hit games (16). Golsan is also the only member of the team to start in every single game over the past two years.
“I think Golsan fits more of the mold of a guy like Colby Bortles,” hitting coach Mike Clement said. “Golsan doesn’t say a whole lot, and speaks way more with his actions than he does with his words. He’s that guy who is ultra-competitive, and when he says something, I think everybody listens. You couldn’t ask for a better kid or a better leader.”
Golsan will be assisted at the plate by his fellow senior Rowe, who, despite being a first-year transfer player last year and only making 30 starts, drove in 20 runs on 32 hits and a .254 batting average.
The Rebels will also rely heavily on a trio of juniors to help bolster the bats. Ryan Olenek, who carries over 56 hits from a year before, and Nick Fortes, who held the highest batting average (.319), are both players that are preparing to take major roles in improving the Rebel offense for the upcoming season. Michael Fitzsimmons, dubbed the ‘Pinch-Hit Prince’ by his teammates for his clutch performances as a pinch hitter, will also look to make a significant impact at the plate for the team.
“We really only lost those two players (Bortles and Blackman) from our everyday lineup, and when you can return seven out of the nine hitters, it’s about being more consistent,” Clement said. “Can those guys, from an approach standpoint, start to understand who they are within the confines of our offense, and what they need to do for our offense to be dynamic? It’s just about those guys understanding what their roles are within our offense.”
For the second straight year, the Rebels will be forced to rely on younger players to make a significant impact on offense. The team has just three seniors on the roster, compared to 25 combined sophomores and first-year players. However, five of those incoming sophomores played in at least 30 games as freshmen, including Thomas Dillard, Grae Kessinger, Cooper Johnson, Cole Zabowski, and Bryan Seamster, and they will look to use their experience to an advantage this year.
“Like Coach Bianco has been saying, these sophomores have a lot of at-bats under their belts, and that’s going to be good for us,” Rowe said. “Their experience is definitely going to help us out, and I’m feeling comfortable with our offense this year.”
Because of the extensive experience returning from last year, the seven offensive newcomers will be forced to earn their way into the lineup, allowing for much healthier competition in the fall.
“I think the difference between the freshmen this year and the freshmen last year is that there’s not going to be as much pressure on them (incoming freshmen) stepping in, because they’re just going to get what they earn,” Clement said.
For the team’s veterans both inside the locker room and on the field, this fall is also being used to help show younger players the ropes when it comes to Ole Miss Baseball and being an aggressive playmaker at the plate.
“For the young guys, we’re just trying to show them what Ole Miss Baseball is all about,” Golsan said. “We work hard and get better out here every day, and I think a couple of us older guys are just trying to lead the new guys in the right direction so that we can be successful this year.”
With so many impact players returning, as well as the new crop, the Rebels have a lot to be hopeful for on offense this season, and expectations are high as the team steadily gears towards transforming into a lethal and potent offense.
For all Ole Miss Baseball news and information, visit the official athletics site OleMissSports.com. For more social media updates, follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissBSB, on Facebook at Ole Miss Baseball and on Instagram at olemissbsb.
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