By Parrish Alford / NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Maybe Saturday was a good sign for the coming Ole Miss baseball season.
The Rebels open with Wright State on Feb. 18. On Saturday against a collection of Mike Bianco-Era alumni, including major leaguers Matt Tolbert (Minnesota) and 2009 National League rookie of the year Chris Coghlan (Florida), the current Rebels used a seven-run fifth inning to win 7-0.
An estimated crowd of 1,000 braved temperatures slightly above freezing, but was treated to sunshine for most of the game.
The current cast used pitchers Matt Crouse, David Goforth, newcomer Austin Wright, a left-handed junior college transfer, and Jake Morgan, the 2009 closer, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery.
Pitching was the name of the game, as there were few hard-hit balls. Both teams used wooden bats.
“Oh, we felt fine. Sometimes you just don’t get a lot of hits. We had that one inning where we got a lot of good pitches and didn’t miss many,” said senior outfielder Matt Smith.
Smith had a two-run single, and junior college transfer Zach Kirksey, like Wright one of 20 newcomers on the 2011 roster, had a two-run double in the decisive fifth.
‘Definitely a work day’
“This was definitely a work day for us,” Smith said. “We would have had an intrasquad if we didn’t play these guys. We’re trying to get ready for Feb. 18. This was against good pitching and good talent. It was great to get out there with guys who came through here and helped the program get where it is.”
While it was a workout for the Rebels, who will practice again today, the game was the final piece of a reunion weekend for the alumni players.
A planned Friday golf outing was canceled because of weather, but they participated in other indoor sports like eating and visiting.
Tolbert is preparing for his third season with the Twins. He was 0-for-4 for the game.
“It was good to get back to game speed. That was the first live pitching I’ve seen in four-and-a-half months,” he said.
For the alumni, Drew Pomeranz was the starting pitcher and Stephen Head the closer – much as he did on the 2005 team that took on Texas in the first Oxford Super Regional.
The alumni had just two hits, singles by Alex Presley and Justin Henry.
Tolbert, Bianco’s first signee at Ole Miss, said he enjoyed seeing the renovated stadium but isn’t surprised to see such a facility at Ole Miss.
“Everything is first-class here. You can’t find anything better than this. I figured they would have it one day, you know with coach Bianco,” Tolbert said. “It’s great to come back. It looks unbelievable.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.