Newcomers Mixing In Well on the Diamond
Oct. 13, 2017
By Davis McCool, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. – With 14 fresh faces in the Ole Miss baseball clubhouse this year compared to only five departing starters, these newcomers know that their work in a Rebel uniform this year will have to be earned. The freshmen and junior college transfers have impressed in their two months as a Rebel, according to the coaching staff, but with so much retained talent from last year, competition for a job in the spring will be stiff.
“I think our biggest strength is the depth of our team,” hitting coach Mike Clement said. “For any one position, we have multiple guys that could get the job done. And that’s a good thing, competition is healthy, and if you see one of those young guys on the field in the spring, that means they’ve earned it. They’re going to get their opportunities all year, and if they are productive with their at-bats, they will get more of them during the season.”
Storylines for the fall have mostly surrounded the team’s returning veterans, and overlooked this year’s recruiting class that has quietly worked its way to the 21st best in the country, according to Perfect Game. Contrary to last year, when much of the focus was on the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, this year’s bunch is taking the news as motivation to outperform their rankings, and prove themselves as Rebels.
“It motivates all of us,” freshman infielder Tyler Keenan said. “We want to make a name for ourselves just as bad as anybody else by coming out here and proving that we can play for this university and this city. Every day we come out and practice hard and take in information from the coaches and the older guys just so we can improve our game anyway we can.”
The competition for starting jobs all across the diamond is already underway, and while many starters and impact players returned from last year, the coaching staff is adamant that every position is up for grabs.
“One thing we’ve preached this year is that it’s open competition, and that no matter if you’re a senior or a freshman, the best guy is going to play,” Clement said. “That’s the one thing that I think these guys know, that if you’ve earned it, you’re going to get to be able to go out and play, no matter your experience.”
Another strong aspect of the 2017 class is the level of parity amongst all 14 newcomers, where similar chances of having an impact role this season exist for everybody in the class.
“I don’t think anybody feels like their outstanding compared to anybody else on the team,” freshman Tim Elko said. “We’re all trying to earn a spot and do whatever we can to help this team win. In the end, it’s all about how the team can be the most successful.”
From a coach’s perspective, however, this incoming class has earned the praise thus far, and could see multiple first-year guys on the field when the season rolls around.
“On the whole, I think they’ve done a really good job getting acclimated and not tip-toeing through what we’re doing, and just getting inundated with the system,” Clement said. “I think they’re done a great job of jumping right in if you look at the fall intrasquads, statistically, some of these new guys are right up there at the top.”
Freshmen Anthony Servideo and Carl Gindl, both from Florida, are leading the pack amongst the newcomers behind the plate with fall scrimmage batting averages of .348 and .333, respectively. Not too far from the top, other freshmen hitters have impressed as well, including Keenan hitting .286, Elko .273, and Michael Spears’ .240 clip.
The pitchers have had significant less opportunity to impress in the fall scrimmage season, a maximum per player IP at just 11.0. However, top high-school prospect Jordan Fowler out of Union City, Tennessee leads all first-year players with a 3.38 ERA in his limited time on the mound. Austin Miller and Pierce Smith, both junior-college transfers, are also turning heads, and are two of just a few Rebel pitchers holding opposing batters below a .200 batting average in their brief stints pitching in scrimmages.
With just a few more weeks of fall scrimmages remaining, the newcomers are fully committed to doing everything they can to impress for the season.
“All the incoming guys look really strong,” Elko said. "We have some good pitchers, and some good position players as well, and we’re all just ready to make an impact for the team come Feb. 16.”
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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