OXFORD, Miss. – The last 12 months in the Ole Miss athletic department have been filled with quite a bit of drama–from last summer’s resignation of head football coach Hugh Freeze, to the conclusion of a lengthy NCAA investigation, to Monday’s announcement by men’s basketball head coach Andy Kennedy that he will step down at the end of this season. Through all of the upheaval, however, there has been one constant in the athletic department: Mike Bianco and the baseball program.
Ole Miss has enjoyed stability and success during head coach Mike Bianco’s 17 years at the helm. The Rebels failed to reach the postseason a year ago for only the third time during Bianco’s tenure in Oxford, and the first time since 2011, which could have been the result of a young and inexperienced team.
Of the 35 players on the roster last season, only six were upperclassmen. That has shifted this year.
“Sunday night at the junior/senior dinner at my house we had 14 [upperclassmen],” Bianco said. “We’ve over doubled the upperclassmen already.”
Bianco announced at media day that senior Will Golsan and redshirt junior Brady Feigl have been voted team captains by their teammates.
“It’s amazing,” Feigl said.
“When your teammates look at you like that and put you in that position it’s awesome…But it’s not just on me and Golsan to fill that role. A big thing we’ve emphasized this year is for all of the juniors and seniors to step up and be leaders.”
Ole Miss junior Brady Feigl on being named a team captain
Despite bringing back the majority of the lineup — seven of the nine everyday position players are returning — Bianco was still left with some decisions about who would replace Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles on opening day against Winthrop.
“At third base it could be a couple freshman. One is Tim Elko, and another freshman Tyler Keenan, both are physical hitters, both solid defenders,” Bianco said. “At second base, the other position open from the departure of Tate Blackman, you should look for Jacob Adams or Anthony Servideo at second base on opening day.”
Position changes coming for several Rebels
There are a few players changing positions this spring. Nick Fortes will start at first base rather than catcher on opening day, with Cooper Johnson starting at catcher. Will Golsan will move from right to center field, and Ryan Olenek will switch from center to right.
“Will moves to his fourth position in four years where he’ll start at center field and Ryan Olenek playing right,” Bianco said. “Those guys flip-flopped and the reason that we did that is because I feel like Ryan will play some infield this year and we didn’t want to move the center field spot around.”
Playing different positions isn’t anything new to Olenek, who has played at six different spots during his Ole Miss career. He appears to be confident about playing anywhere.
“I’ve played literally every position except catcher this fall and spring,” Olenek said.
“Bouncing around positions has never been an issue, wherever they need me is where I’ll be.”
Bianco announces pitching rotation
The pitching rotation is something that fans have been speculating about since the fall. The Rebels look to be one of the most dominating forces in the SEC.
“Friday we’ll start off with Ryan Rolison on the mound for us,” Bianco said. “Saturday Brady Feigl, and Sunday James McArthur. And it’s no secret that Dallas Woolfolk will be our closer.”
“We got four or five guys that could be in the same position but it’s good to hear the confidence,” Rolison said. “Just focus on one pitch at a time and the rest will take care of itself.”
The Diamond Rebels open the season on Friday as they begin a series against Winthrop on Friday, February 16 at 4:00 p.m, followed by a 1:30 p.m. game on Saturday, with the final game set for 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.