Here it is Rebel fans: the moment we’ve all been waiting for. We have suffered through enough painful weekends over the past year. Now, it is time to claim our reward. Ole Miss Baseball is finally here, and with baseball season comes excitement. Here are the top nine reasons to get excited for the upcoming season:
“Love is Gone”
To any other fan base, this is just a song that would never be played at a baseball game. To us, though, it has become a fifth inning anthem. It’s been a while since we have been able to enjoy some traditions at Swayze, so get ready to pump those fists, and let’s get crazy.
The Starting Pitching Staff
All three Rebels in the starting rotation to begin the year are already established as good pitchers in the SEC. David Parkinson, who will roll out on Friday as the “ace,” held down the Saturday spot in the rotation for the majority of last year. McArthur spent the year as the main midweek starter and was downright dominant at times. He is a big arm that should have no problems converting to a Saturday starter. On Sunday, the Rebs will send out sophomore Brady Feigl. When it comes to throwing off-speed pitches, Feigl is the guy. He is known for buckling hitters at the plate and sending them to the dugout embarrassed.
There will be changes and hiccups in the rotation throughout the year, but it’s looking good right now. No matter what pitching rotation Coach Bianco chooses to go with for any particular weekend, there is one thing that is for certain: it will be a talented rotation.
This is something that all Rebel fans are anxious to see. The current crop of freshmen coming in were rated as the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. For the opening game, Coach Bianco has announced that at least three true freshmen will get the nod to start. Those include Grae Kessinger at shortstop, Cooper Johnson at catcher and Thomas Dillard in left field. Bianco also mentioned the Cole Zabowski could get the start at first base.
This team was already going to be a good one, but with the added talent from this freshmen class, this could be Mike Bianco’s most talented team yet. While talent does not always lead to wins, it will be exciting to watch as the year unfolds.
Solo Cup Races
Another wacky tradition housed within Swayze is the solo cup races. Even if the baseball game is not going as planned, this event is sure to entertain. With the solo cup races comes one ever-lingering question: Can the yellow cup pull off the biggest upset in school history?
Although the talk of this baseball team revolves around the No. 1 ranked recruiting class, do not overlook the guys returning from last year’s squad. The two most notable returning starters are Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles. Last year, these two were consistent both at the plate and in the infield for a Rebels squad that won over 40 games.
After Blackman and Bortles, there is a wealth of talent that does not seem to get the credit it deserves. Junior Will Golsan returns as a three-year starter for the Rebels. Getting the nod in right field, he will now have started at three different positions in three different years, as he started at first base in 2016 and second base in 2015.
Along with Golsan, Ole Miss returns Ryan Olenek, Kyle Watson, Michael Fitzsimmons and Nick Fortes, who all saw action as starters for the Rebels last year. Ole Miss also returns a host of talent in the pitching staff, which was a strength for the Rebels a year ago. So, don’t write this team off as “too young,” because there is an excellent blend of veterans to go along with those newbies.
Right Field Showers
If this isn’t the coolest tradition in college baseball, then I don’t know what is. Watching a ball leave the park at Swayze is one of the most exciting things to witness within Ole Miss athletics, and with players like Colby Bortles and Thomas Dillard in the lineup, we can look forward to seeing plenty of showers out there in right field. If you are planning on sitting in the right field lounge, I only have one piece of advice: Wear a rain jacket.
Throughout the 2016 season, the glue that held that team together was a bullpen that featured three Freshman All-Americans, although two of those are now in the weekend rotation. With the lone exception being Wyatt Short, Ole Miss returns virtually every player from the pen. Every great baseball team starts with great pitching, and this Rebel team certainly has the firepower to be great.
Since 2000, Ole Miss athletics has been a rollercoaster of emotions. There was the age of Eli, the Chris Warren show, the 2-10 football season in 2011, and the 4th and 25. Over the years, a saying has developed within the Ole Miss fan base. Following every heart-breaking loss in football and every upset we have suffered in basketball, all Rebel fans can be heard stating the same phrase: “Just wait until baseball season.”
Thanks to Coach Bianco, baseball has been the glue that has kept Ole Miss sports together. Everything we have come to know and love about Ole Miss Baseball would not even be possible without Mike Bianco; so tip your hats to the greatest coach in Ole Miss Baseball history. As long as this man is at the helm of this great program, we have something to be excited about.
This should be the only reason you need to get excited about Ole Miss Baseball. In Oxford, baseball isn’t something we take lightly. Through thick and thin, we support our baseball team and show up no matter what. During the fifth inning, we dance to “Love is Gone.” During the seventh inning, we stretch. Oh, and we never forget when it is “Peanut Butter Jelly Time.” It’s just what we do.
There will be some down times this year, and there will be some great times this year. That is how baseball works. So, get your tickets and show up to Swayze ready to roll. If this is your first season attending Ole Miss Baseball, well then you will just have to experience all of this for yourself. Welcome to the greatest atmosphere in College Baseball.
By Cole Crenshaw, 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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