Fall Report: Ole Miss
As seems to be the case with most of the Southeastern Conference’s West Division teams, Ole Miss looks like a team on a real mission to rebound.
If you remember, the Rebels made history two seasons ago when they beat Louisiana-Lafayette in super regional action to advance to the College World Series for the first time in decades. That team was a real treat to watch, but once the season was over it was obvious the Rebels would have some tough obstacles to overcome in 2016.
Ole Miss didn’t have a bad 2015 campaign, but it wasn’t up to Mike Bianco’s full standards. His team finished the year with just a .500 mark in SEC play, and narrowly made the postseason after tallying an overall record of 30-28.
The bad news is the rabid fans in Oxford (which is a good thing) expect more. The good news? Last season allowed the Rebels to give ample experience to a host of position players, most, who by the way, are back this fall. While the offense appears to be a real strength as fall workouts conclude, the most exciting aspect of the team could be the pitching staff despite a bevy of fresh faces.
The Rebels do have some work to do on the mound, as experience is an issue. But Bianco hasn’t had a staff this physically impressive in a while, and the return of Brady Bramlett gives them a consistent force on the front-end of the rotation.
“Offensively, I really thought it was a terrific fall for us, ” Bianco said. “As a young team last year, we struck out a lot, but I thought we really put together much, much better at-bats throughout the fall, and we were able to chain some of those at-bats together.
“We signed the most pitchers we’ve ever signed in our recruiting class, and I think it shows with this group that we’re going to be much better on the mound,” he continued. “From a stuff, breaking ball and physicality standpoint, it’s just a much different look from our guys. There certainly are a lot of new faces, but it’s good pitchers.”
There have been some interesting developments during the Rebels’ fall workouts. For instance, Tate Blackman had a huge fall as a freshman last year, only to surprise many by finishing the spring season with a .197 batting average. Bianco said Blackman looks like a completely different and more confident player. Meanwhile, the star of the show in the spring will be shortstop Errol Robinson, while powerful Colby Bortles appears to be ready for yet another step in his career.
On the mound, junior college transfer Chad Smith has a big-time arm and met expectations during fall workouts, while former prep stars James McArthur and Dallas Woolfolk had impressive falls and likely will have very important roles in 2016.
“In all honesty, we’re talented enough on the mound to get where we want to be at the end of the year,” he said. “You’re always going to have some question marks, but I think the bullpen will be one of the better ones we’ve ever had, and the talent across the board will be very good.”
We breakdown the players having notable showings this fall.
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