Sunday, January 24, 2021

GOAT DH/Utility Players Under Coach Mike Bianco

By Adam Brown and Jeff Roberson 
adam.brown@hottytoddy.com; wjrobers@olemiss.edu

Ole Miss fans, it has been a long month with no sports for the red and blue. Here at HottyToddy.com, we feel the same way you do about not being out at Swayze. We miss hearing the crack of the bats, feeling the energy of the crowd and cheering on the Rebels. 

Over the next few weeks, HottyToddy is going to break down the greatest of all time to step on the diamond of Swayze Field in the coach Mike Bianco era. We’re taking a position-by-position look at the five best at their craft.

We know there will be debate about these choices, and that is good. It’s what we want. We also know some excellent players are left off these lists because we only chose five at each spot as well as a total of 15 outfielders.

HottyToddy’s own sports editor Adam Brown and contributor Jeff Roberson are going to give our readers our top picks at each position on the diamond. In all, there will be a total of 10 lists that include starters, relievers, closers, and utility players.
There are five utility players and designated hitters we chose from the Bianco era. All these played important roles in their careers, and some were actually regular players, often at positions, specifically Colby Bortles and Ryan Olenek, two of the better college players for Ole Miss in the 20-year period. Certainly, those two were big fan favorites. All of them had moments.

Holt Perdzock will never be forgotten for a top of the ninth, bases-loaded, bases-clearing hit that all but sealed a trip to the College World Series for the Rebels in 2014 in Lafayette, La. The shot to the right-field wall gave Ole Miss a five-run lead in a 10-4 victory. Perdzock had other key moments in his career and his final season, but none bigger than that one.

John Gatlin’s momentous RBI walk-off for the Rebels to beat Texas Tech 2-1 in an elimination game in Omaha is also never to be forgotten. It came the week after Perdzock’s hit, two days after Gatlin’s grandmother’s death, and four days before his brother’s wedding. So the Rebs, and Gatlin, played on and won another game vs. TCU two days later.

Colby Bortles, really more of a position player throughout his career, was a freshman on that Omaha team in 2014 and contributed to the Rebels’ success. But not like he would into the future. The Floridian and brother of an NFL QB, Bortles could put the ball in play and also send it over the fence. Before he was done in red and blue, he was in the College Home Run Derby in Omaha. Bortles, a sure-gloved defender at third or first when he played, is in the Detroit Tigers organization currently.

Evan Button should be remembered for more than the error in game two of the 2009 Super Regional against Virginia. He was a solid player who came aboard in the latter part of the first decade of the new century. A hockey player growing up in St. Louis as well as a baseball player, Button’s uniform was always game-worn and dirty after a contest. He hustled and battled and gave it everything he had his whole career and deserves to be remembered for that.

Ryan Olenek left his mark on Ole Miss baseball through his last season to play in 2019. An outfielder who was versatile enough to play infield and also pitch, including closing, Olenek became a feared and fierce competitor for the opponents and a fan favorite for Rebel Nation. Drafted by the Giants in the 17th round after his junior season, Olenek chose to return to Ole Miss for one more run. The Rebels hosted a Regional, won it, and advanced to a Super Regional. Olenek did not get drafted after his senior season.


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