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Pitcher Christian Trent is returning for the Rebels in 2015. (Photo credit: Evelyn Vanpelt)
The last time they played baseball, the Ole Miss Rebels were in Omaha. It was June, the air was hot, and they were playing in beautiful TD Ameritrade Park. At that point the Rebels were in unchartered territory, as they had not been to the College World Series in 42 years!
Yes, a team picked to finish 5th in the SEC West was one of the final four teams remaining in the country. For the coaches, players, fans and parents, it was a dream come true. Those who bleed red and blue were in baseball heaven watching their team play on the biggest of stages—it was “OLEMAHA!”
Where are they now?
That historic 2014 Rebel team was filled with a number of players who have since been drafted to play at the next level. It had Austin Anderson handling the hot corner and Auston Bousfield and Braxton Lee roaming the outfield. It had John Gatlin performing as Mr. Utility. It had Aaron Greenwood stepping up as the calm reliever who played even better when situations got tense. It had Chris Ellis performing steadily on the mound as the Friday night bell cow and Josh Laxer coming in as the hard-throwing closer. It had Preston Overbey performing steadily at second and Will Allen, the clutch-hitting catcher, as a stalwart presence behind the plate. These players, along with pitcher Hawtin Buchanan, are now vying to further their baseball dreams in the pros.
The 2015 Rebels
Last Saturday, I ventured over to Swayze Field to watch the 2015 version of the Rebels. We have 18 newcomers and 20 returners on the current roster, and I can tell you this team looks a little different than last season’s; physically, they are athletic monsters.
Let’s take a look at the key spots in the 2015 lineup.
Ole Miss returns a couple of key starters on the mound. Christian Trent and Sam Smith will headline the pitching staff. They were the Saturday and Sunday starters, respectively, and will provide experience and stability at the pitcher position.
Anderson, who developed into mid-week starter a year ago, posted a 2-0 record last season. Brady Bramlett had a monster summer in the Cal Ripken League, and Jacob Wagsapack threw very well in the Northwoods League. Though there will be others in the running for time on the mound, these are the guys who have seen regular action for the Rebels over the past couple of years. The bullpen will need to be developed; however, Wyatt Short, the left-handed, hard-throwing workhorse is a great start!
Behind the plate
The catcher position looks to be in fine hands. The Rebels have Austin Knight who caught a handful of games last year, including two in Omaha. They have Henri Lartigue, a switch-hitting sophomore who had a few at-bats last spring and also had a great summer in the Northwoods League this year. They also have Nic Perkins, a freshman with a cannon on his right shoulder.
On the corners
Sikes Orvis returns for his senior season and will anchor first base. This past Saturday, he picked up where he left off last spring, as he hit a double, a triple and practically undressed a first baseman on three at-bats.
Joe Wainhouse is an absolute beast and should provide a solid backup to Sikes. Colby Bortles looks leaner and even more athletic than a year ago. He could fill one of three roles—first base, third base or designated hitter. There are a number of competent middle infielders who could make the move to third base.
In the middle
Errol Robinson, the slick-fielding sophomore who had a breakout season last year, returns at shortstop. He could be pushed this year by three freshmen: Tate Blackman, Will Golsan and Kyle Watson. The newcomers all showed flashes of leather on Saturday. Watson and Blackman each hit bombs during the first weekend, and Golsan was awarded the Tour DEFENSE yellow jersey for the scrimmage last Saturday. The middle infield will be fun to watch this year because they are very athletic—and one of these four may just find himself at third base when the spring rolls out.
Last weekend, J.B. Woodman looked at home in centerfield; he was roaming all over and running down a lot of balls. He will be a mainstay in the Rebels lineup. The other two spots in the outfield will be up for grabs. Cameron Dishon, a speedy returner, could make his way to one of the corner outfield positions. Holt Perdzock, the clutch-hitting pinch hitter from a year ago, could play right field. The Rebels brought in three JUCO transfers–Connor Cloyd, Matt Martin and Josh Watkins–to help fill the shoes of Bousfield and Lee.
Getting back to Olemaha
Ole Miss now knows what it takes to make the trip to OLEMAHA: talent, guts and determination to make that trip. The staff is working hard to develop all three. Coach Mike Bianco did more active coaching in the scrimmage than I have seen in the past. He appeared to be the same old intense ball coach, but somehow also seemed relaxed. The newcomer to the staff, Coach Clement, was in the third base box and worked closely with each of the hitters during the scrimmage. The team will be tough if Strength Coach Ben Fleming has anything to say about it. The losers in the scrimmage Saturday had to run three triangles (home to right field pole, across to left field pole, and back to the plate) while carrying a bat over their heads.
Watch the Rebels scrimmage, then head to Vaught-Hemingway
The Rebels will scrimmage Friday, September 26, at 2:45 p.m. and again on Saturday, September 27 at 11:00 a.m. This is a great opportunity to see the boys play before you head to the Grove and Vaught-Hemingway for Saturday night’s whipping of the Memphis Tigers!