I’m heading over for Mike Bianco’s preseason baseball press conference in a bit.
I have joked with Bianco through the years and told him this is my favorite event to cover, because it means spring is right around the corner.
Speaking of spring, check out the forecast for Friday’s opener against Florida International.
I’ll have notes and video on the blog after the presser. What you’ll hear is that experience is expected to be an asset for this year’s team whereas it was not a year ago. You’ll also hear that increased numbers of pitchers and increased talent should lead to more success on the mound.
Probably, there was able talent last year had Tommy John surgery not subtracted three pitchers, one of them a projected weekend starter in Sean Johnson.
In addition, Sam Smith, a former walk-on who pitched well for many seasons, did not pitch well at the end of his career.
The result was Ole Miss had enough pitching to compete in the first two games of an SEC series, and Christian Trent and Brady Bramlett helped them do just that, but there wasn’t enough depth to compete each Sunday. That lack of depth really showed up in the non-conference. Ole Miss split a two-game series (third was rained out) with Texas A&M on the final weekend to get to 15-14 in SEC play. That was enough to earn the Rebels an NCAA tournament 2 seed. Ole Miss, however, was just 15-14 in non-conference play, and that was enough to get the Rebels shipped to Los Angeles for the regional that included the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed.
It was lack of runs, not pitching, that caused Ole Miss to go two-and-out at UCLA and finish the season 30-28. If it wasn’t one thing it was another. So it went for a team that finished in the lower third of the SEC stats in hitting, fielding and in pitching where it was next to last.
So it is that Ole Miss begins this baseball season in relative obscurity, unranked or barely ranked in most preseason polls.
Fans may want to familiarize themselves with the names Chad Smith, David Parkinson, James McArthur and Dallas Woolfolk. Those guys were the first new pitchers mentioned in conversation with Bianco. They will have the chance to play key roles and should see the mound some time over the course of the first weekend.
It’s an unusual position, but while most folks aren’t talking about the Rebels right now there seems to be a quiet confidence coming from the program. We’ll soon see who has the right read. No. 2 Louisville visits Oxford the second weekend.