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Ole Miss looks at UAB as solid tune-up before SEC opener against the Vols

Ole Miss looks at UAB as solid tune-up before SEC opener against the Vols

Ole Miss is feeling confident and looking forward to the beginning of Southeastern Conference play this weekend at Tennessee, but the Rebels will first use their two mid-week games against UAB (6-9) as a tune-up for the Vols.

The ninth-ranked Rebels (15-1) have been scorching hot in the past two weeks, winning 10 in a row – sweeping Southeast Missouri and Grambling State in the process. But head coach Mike Bianco feels his team still has a way to go despite only having one loss (a 4-0 defeat to No. 2 Louisville on Feb. 27) in the 2016 season.

“The good news is we have played good,” said Bianco, who picked up his 600th win as Ole Miss head coach in Friday’s 15-2 rout of the Tigers. “We have played good, consistent, solid baseball. I don’t think we have played our best yet. We do enough to win and sometimes win convincingly.

“So the good news for us is there’s room for growth and room to get better.”

Rebels performing at the plate

preview UAB3

Blackman (4) and Bortles (25) have combined for 37 hits so far this season–19 and 18, respectively. (Photo credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

There might be room for a little improvement in some areas, but Bianco has to be pleased with the way Ole Miss has performed offensively. For the season, the Rebels have outscored their opponents 121-50. The first inning has been the most impressive for Bianco’s team, as they have amassed a 26-6 advantage.

The strong hitting from the Rebels’ starters has helped propel the program this season. Thus far the Rebels have six players with double-digit hits: J.B. Woodman (19), Colby Bortles (18), Tate Blackman (18), Will Golsan (17), Errol Robinson (15), and Henri Lartigue (12).

The batting averages to date reflect this success, as Ole Miss currently has six players hitting at a clip over .300: Ryan Olenek (.381), J.B. Woodman (.358), Colby Bortles (.346), Holt Perdzock (.346), Tate Blackman (.333), and Will Golsan (.304) are all above .300.

“I like the offense; I like how we get off to good starts,” Bianco said. “Then, we were cold there for like a week or so. But they have been able to bounce back.”

Will stokes vs Grambling

Will Stokes picked up his second save of the season. (Photo credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

New pitchers ‘have pitched really well’

While the offense has looked superb, pitching has been a bit sporadic at times; however, the Rebels have come through on the mound when they needed to.  

In Sunday’s 7-3 game one win over Grambling State, starting right-handed pitcher Chad Smith gave up seven hits before Wyatt Short closed out the win and picked his fourth save on the season.

In game two (a 6-1 victory for the Rebels), starting RHP Sean Johnson gave up 3 hits before Will Stokes pitched the final two innings to earn his second save of the season.

Having a bullpen full of healthy and hungry pitchers certainly makes Bianco’s decisions to pull certain pitchers less stressful and more comfortable:

I am really proud of the guys in the bullpen and some of the younger pitchers. Some guys have really pitched well, like (David) Parkinson, (Brady) Feigl, probably some guys most of you knew the names, but they didn’t know much of them. If they were standing in front of you, you probably wouldn’t know who it was. So a lot of the new pitchers have pitched really well and I think it has given us a huge lift.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco

Johnson agreed with Bianco about the depth of pitching heading into SEC play and doesn’t mind coming off the mound if it opens up opportunities for other pitchers:

I feel confident. There’s no doubt we are ready. We are excited about getting into SEC play. Going to UAB, it will be a couple of warm-up games getting into SEC play.

RHP Sean Johnson

Probable starters vs. UAB

Bianco announced after Sunday’s slate of victories that freshman RHP James McArthur will start the first game against the Blazers on Tuesday (6:30 p.m. CST) and freshman RHP Andy Pagnozzi will get the starting nod on Wednesday (11:30 a.m. CST).

(Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

About The Author

Courtney Smith

Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men's basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.

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