The most wonderful time of the year is here. The Ole Miss Baseball season begins today at 4 p.m. against No. 6 East Carolina.
The Rebels had the No. 1 recruiting class this year and are looking at a young roster to fill the positions. The 36-man roster consists of 28 freshmen and sophomores, six juniors and only two seniors.
“There are some holes to fill from some guys that were stars here who are now playing professional baseball,” said head coach Mike Bianco.
Coach Bianco enters his 17th season as head coach as is searching for leadership in his young roster.
He said, “There are definitely opportunities for the young, talented recruiting class to step on the field immediately and play.”
Despite losing Henri Lartigue, Errol Robinson, J.B. Woodman, Wyatt Short, Brady Bramlett and Chad Smith to the 2016 MLB Draft, Ole Miss returns a handful of key players.
Left-handed sophomore David Parkinson (5-3, 2.78 ERA, 68 IP, 50 K) earned the starting position at pitcher for opening night.
“I feel like Coach (Bianco) has the trust in me to do what I need to do,” Parkinson said.
Coach Bianco decided that junior Will Stokes will be the closer. Sophomore James McArthur (6-1, 4.26 ERA, 61.1 IP, 61 K) starts Saturday’s game on the mound and redshirt sophomore Brady Feigl (4-0, 3,76 ERA, 40.2 IP, 39 K) will finish out the series on Sunday.
Veteran third baseman Colby Bortles (.269, 8 HR, 50 RBI, .475 slugging) and veteran second baseman Tate Blackman (.322, 3 HR, 38 RBI, .435 slugging) will make their season debuts on Friday. Both Blackman and Bortles were elected captains this year by the team. Sophomore Ryan Olenek, junior Will Golsan, and freshman Thomas Dillard will start in the outfield.
The first base starter is a toss up between freshman Cole Zabowski and sophomore Chase Cockrell. Ole Miss’ designated hitter is to be announced.
Freshman Grae Kessinger, grandson of Chicago Cubs legend Don Kessinger, is slated to fill the void Errol Robinson left at short stop.
Coach Bianco said, “When you lose your shortstop, that’s the number one need to look at. Grae Kessinger had a great fall and looks to be the starting shortstop.”
Kessinger’s fellow freshman, Cooper Johnson, Ole Miss’ most sought-after recruit of last season, gets the start at catcher.
East Carolina will not be an easy team to beat. The Pirates are coached by former Ole Miss assistant Cliff Godwin, who posted a 38-23-1 record and made an appearance in the NCAA Super Regional last season. Ole Miss thrives to achieve beat last season’s 43-19 record and expects a regional tournament appearance, even with a substantially young team.
By Wes Cooper, an intern for HottyToddy.com and a student of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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