A few notes and thoughts on the baseball weekend after the Rebels complete the sweep of Florida International with a 16-5 win today. …
The guys that we were told swung it well in the off-season swung it well the first weekend.
I’m thinking specifically of Tate Blackman and J.B. Woodman.
Nobody needed a good weekend more than Blackman, a top 50 recruit last year who played far under those expectations as a true freshman when he hit only .197.
Blackman wasn’t a factor by season’s end. Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco told us that he kept a great attitude and work ethic in spite of that and was very consistent in fall and winter workouts.
He opened the season with a bang going 6-for-10 with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs.
Ole Miss needs Blackman to be better than average if it is going to surprise some people and make a run this season.
Woodman hit almost .300 as a freshman on the CWS team. His power improved slightly last year at the behest and tinkering of his coaches but not enough to off-set the fact that he hit .274 overall but just .215 in SEC play.
SEC play is still a few weeks out, but it will seem like SEC play when No. 2 Louisville visits this weekend.
Like Blackman, Woodman was great on opening weekend going 5-for-10 with a double, a home run and six RBIs.
Opposing pitching will take a big step up against Louisville.
Ole Miss didn’t exactly rip the cover off against FIU but was effective with 10 hits on Friday, seven on Saturday and 12 on Sunday.
Bianco told us something else at his preseason presser. While he believes he has more talent on his pitching staff he must still figure out roles.
It looks like there’s still some figuring to do.
Brady Bramlett was very good in the opener and is the solid Friday night starter.
After that Ole Miss has a couple of junior college transfers in the rotation in Chad Smith and Sean Johnson. Yes, Johnson has spent a year in the program, but that year was spent having Tommy John surgery and recovering from it.
Bianco has had some first-year junior college pitchers have success – Christian Trent comes to mind – but I don’t recall that he’s relied so heavily on two in the same season as he could this year.
Smith was pretty average in Game 2, lasting just 3 2-3 innings with four hits and three runs, all earned.
Johnson was better today in Game 3 but was by no means untouchable, allowing seven hits and four runs, two earned, over five innings. He walked two and struck out five.
I wasn’t around interviews Saturday or today to hear what Bianco had to say about his starters. It’s unfair to set expectations too high on two guys making their first college starts. It’s also reasonable to think that Bianco, with more options on this year’s staff won’t wait too long to use them.
The good news on the pitching front came from a couple of other new guys in middle relief.
David Parkinson, a left-handed juco transfer, threw 2 2-3 innings of hitless, scoreless relief in Friday’s season opener.
In Saturday’s game freshman Andy Pagnozzi allowed just one hit and no runs in 2 1-3 innings.