OXFORD, Miss. – With the Ole Miss baseball season-opener just a few days away, head coach Mike Bianco revealed Tuesday what his opening weekend rotation will be when the Rebels take on Wright State in a three-game series beginning Friday.
Bianco, the Rebels’ skipper for the last 19 years, spoke at Ole Miss Media Day this afternoon where he discussed this year’s team and also announced his lineup.
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco speaks at Media Day Tuesday. (Video: Archie Breland, The Rebel Walk)
Friday: Will Ethridge – Junior (RHP, 6’5, 240 lbs)
On Friday, junior righthander Will Ethridge will take over as the first pitcher in the rotation. He was chosen as the opening starter not only because of his experience, but also because of his proven ability to pitch in any given situation.
As a sophomore last season, the Georgia native made 26 appearances, finishing 3-1 and posting a solid 3.91 ERA in 50.2 innings. His exposure to high-pressure situations coming out of the bullpen sets him up perfectly to take the mound on Fridays and put on a fantastic show.
Ethridge posted great performances during fall camp and solidified himself as the starter nearly two weeks ago in the early sessions of spring practice.
“Will, I don’t think left a doubt. I don’t think there is even an argument that he pitched better than anybody on our staff. From the first intrasquad to the last—he’s only given up maybe two or three runs over eight or nine starts.”
Coach Bianco on Will Ethridge
Saturday: Zack Phillips – Junior (JUCO, LHP, 6-0, 170 lbs)
In the Saturday slot will be Zack Phillips, the left-hander out of Grayson Community College. After playing at the JUCO level and racking up a strong 10-1 record with a 2.70 ERA last season, Phillips made his way to Oxford and produced one of the best spring practice outings any pitcher could dream of having.
In 10 innings pitched over the past few weeks, Phillips tallied 11 strikeouts, posted a 1.80 ERA, and earned a starting weekend spot.
Phillips came out of the JUCO ranks holding both 1st team All-Conference and 1st Team All-Region Honors.
“Zack’s got electric stuff, and we knew that from the fall. But he’s really pitched well the last couple of weeks of intrasquads, and he’s really pitched as well as anybody on the staff and looked really dominant. (He) gives us a little different look with a left-hander sandwiched in between Will and the Sunday starter in Gunnar Hoglund.”
Coach Bianco on Zack Phillips
Sunday: Gunnar Hoglund – Freshman (RHP, 6-4, 225-lbs)
Out of all the freshmen who grace the list of highly-touted recruits that came in this past fall for Bianco, none stands out as much as 1st Round MLB draft pick Gunnar Hoglund. Being only the second true freshman to ever start an opening series game for Coach Bianco, the young man out of Hudson, Florida surely knows there are a lot expectations upon him. He has the talent to meet or beat them all.
As a high school senior, Hoglund registered a 95 mile per hour fastball during a 7-0 senior season in which he sported a 0.27 ERA. Hoglund was solid at the plate, as well, hitting a career .312 and making himself available for the batting lineup if Coach Bianco needs him.
“He’s been really dominant in our intrasquad games. He’s a guy who possesses a big-time fastball but a good breaking ball and changeup, excellent command. He really can throw the ball on both sides of the plate. For a true freshman, he has a lot of poise.“
Coach Bianco on Gunnar Hoglund
As for the Ole Miss bullpen, most of the relief rotation is yet to be determined—with the caveat that Houston Roth will most likely be the first pitcher out of the pen, along with being the midweek starter, while Parker Carraci, the breakout closer from last season, is slated to take up his same role in the opening weekend series against Wright State.
Probable starters for opening weekend
Coach Bianco outlined the probable starters for opening weekend at each respective position as follows:
- Catcher – Cooper Johnson
- 1st Base – Cole Zabowski
- *2nd Base – Anthony Servideo
- *Shortstop – Grae Kessinger
- 3rd Base – Tyler Keenan
- Left Field – Thomas Dillard
- Center Field – Ryan Olenek
- Right Field – Tim Elko
- Designated Hitter – Chase Cockrell
*If Grae Kessinger does not play due to injury, Jacob Adams will start at 2nd and Anthony Servideo will take shortstop until Kessinger’s return.
Ole Miss opens up the weekend Friday, February 15, at 4:00 p.m. (CT) against Wright State at Swayze Field. The game will be televised on the SEC Network +. First pitch for the Saturday and Sunday games will each be at Noon (CT), and those games can also be streamed on the SEC Network +.
One thing is certain, Ole Miss students are fired up about the Rebels’ return to Swayze:
Right Field came READY. See y'all Friday ‼️ pic.twitter.com/kRPehf52aK
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) February 12, 2019