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Diamond Rebels Depend on Underclassmen for Team Success

Despite losing 7 starters to graduation and Major League Baseball draft last year, many expected Ole Miss to continue its success that it experienced last season when they went to the College Baseball World Series for the first time since 1972. However, at about the halfway point in the season (depending on the amount of post season games), the Diamond Rebs have experienced huge amounts of inconsistency. While there are many contributing factors to this problem, the most significant one is to be expected and slightly optimistic: growing pains.

Errol Robinson Photo courtesy Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics
Sophomore Errol Robinson
Photo courtesy Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics

The 2015 Ole Miss baseball team takes the field with the most amount of underclassmen starting for the Rebels in as far back as most can remember. Of the nine hitters with the most at bats this season, six of them are underclassmen. This includes the 1-4 hitters in the lineup (Will Golsan, Errol Robinson, J.B. Robinson, and Colby Bortles), the highest batting average (Golsan), the most hits (Woodman), the most runs (Kyle Watson), and the highest On-Base Percentage (Woodman).

Although these underclassmen are leading in many statistical categories, the Rebels live and die by their success. Unfortunately, this season has seen more dying than living, especially in SEC games. The underclassmen are a combined .261 batting average on the season, batting. 225 (33-244) in SEC games (5-7 record), and the top four leaders in strikeouts are all underclassmen.

Although these statistics are very grim, these underclassmen have shown flashes of excellence. Errol Robinson and J.B. Woodman both batted around the .290 mark last season as true freshmen. During last year’s postseason run, Colby Bortles had a hot bat and was integral to the Reb’s success. Kyle Watson was the best hitter on the team for the first half of this season as his averaged hovered around .330. Will Golsan was named SEC freshmen of the week following Ole Miss’ series victory over the number 1 ranked Florida Gators and batted .467 in four games last week. While the youth and inexperience has been a contributing factor for the Diamond Rebs this season, it also leaves fans optimistic that as these young players become more acquainted with college baseball that they will also see more success. Furthermore, Rebel fans should be optimistic that starting so many underclassmen now will lead to experienced veterans taking the field in two years.

Sophomore J.B. Woodman Photo courtesy Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics
Sophomore J.B. Woodman
Photo courtesy Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics

However, the youth and inexperience of the underclassmen does not let the upperclassmen off the hook. As a combined unit the batting average of Ole Miss’ juniors and seniors is .226. Yet again, some of these struggles might be attributed to growing pains as only one upperclassmen, Sikes Orvis, has been a major contributor in previous years. But worries should not be spent here. Austin Knight has been swinging a hot bat lately, and it is impossible to keep a hitter like Orvis down for long. Look for these seniors to turn it on as we enter the second have of this season looking to go on a hot streak.

This season has not given fans much reason to be positive. The Rebels are still in the thick of things, and with a solid experienced pitching staff, underclassmen figuring things out, and a couple of clutch performances, the Rebels can surprise a lot of teams down the stretch and help us all to remember that we are one year removed from a college world series birth. There is still a lot of season to go, so stick behind them Rebel faithful. You will not be sorry.

The Diamond Rebels host UT-Martin Wednesday with first pitch set at 3 p.m. before traveling to Auburn for a weekend series against the Tigers.

Skyler Flowers is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at srflower@go.olemiss.edu.

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