Monday, June 27, 2022

18 Most Important Diamond Rebels: No. 14 Connor Cloyd

Junior college transfers are a huge part of the fabric of college athletics. The players may be new to the conferences and level they face at the D1 level but they’ve had a two-year crutch to get them adjusted to life away from home and stiffer competition. They hold particular value in college baseball with many teams signing five or more every year. After the departures of Auston Bousfield, Braxton Lee, Preston Overbey and Will Jamison, Ole Miss will be relying heavily upon a couple junior college transfers in the outfield, particularly Connor Cloyd.

2015 Ole Miss BaseballCloyd graduated from Tahoma High School in Maple Valley, Washington, earning All-State honors as a senior after batting .568 with two home runs, 19 RBI, six doubles, two triples and 40 runs scored. A remarkable athlete, Cloyd also lettered three years in basketball, earning All-League as a senior.

The 5’10, 185 Lb. outfielder then made his way to Tacoma Community College for two years. While with the Titans, he had a supreme knack for getting on base and showcasing his speed once he got there. Cloyd batted .310 his freshman year with three home runs, nine doubles and five triples. Not to be outdone in his sophomore campaign, he hit .364 while leading the team in walks and stolen bases.

Head coach Mike Bianco’s teams have always relied on a speedy outfield at the top of the order to set the stage early on. Last year it was Braxton Lee, before him it was Tanner Mathis, and prior to Mathis it was the dangerously-quick Jordan Henry. Bianco’s brand of small-ball calls for a leadoff man that can get on by any means necessary, then advance on either a stolen base or going from first-to-third on a hit-and-run single.

Asking Cloyd to be as successful as Lee, Mathis or Henry is a tall order, but Bianco would not have brought him in if he didn’t think Cloyd was capable of it. The first-team All-NWAACC selection figures to start the season at the top of the order and could prove to be a valuable weapon if he can get on-base and score to give the Rebels an early lead in ballgames.

Aside from the batters box and the basepaths, it cannot be overstated how much Cloyd can provide in the field. Given the pop coming from the new baseballs, many corner outfielders will be playing deeper than in years past. That leaves teams susceptible to bloop hits in the shallow outfield, showing a dire need for speed at those corner positions and Cloyd can provide just that. He has a quick first step and figures to make a lot of “how did he get there” plays.

The leadoff man sets the tone for every offense and the Rebels will need him to set a good one early and often. If he can do that, expect to see No. 27 crossing home plate in perpetuum this season.

Recapping the list thus far:

18. Kyle Watson, INF

17. Jacob Waguespack, RHP

16. Wyatt Short, LHP

15. Joe Wainhouse, 1B/DH

14. Connor Cloyd, OF

Michael Quirk is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at michael.quirk@hottytoddy.com.

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