Blackman and Parkinson excited about playing in first NCAA Regional at home
OXFORD, Miss. – A season ago, Ole Miss had to travel out West for the NCAA regionals, but this year the Rebels get to stay home and play in front of their own raucous crowd.
Infielder Tate Blackman and left-handed pitcher David Parkinson will be newcomers to the postseason festivities that will take place at Swayze Field. Despite playing in front of the home crowd over the course of the 2016 season, neither Blackman nor Parkinson knows what it feels like to play a regional game at home.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Parkinson said. “I have heard a lot of things about it. I have heard it’s insanely packed. I’m just ready to show up and play.”
Blackman hasn’t gotten much sleep in the past days leading up to Friday night’s game against the Utes. He’s been watching YouTube videos of past home regional games. Before that, he asked his teammates – J.B. Woodman, Errol Robinson, and Colby Bortles – what it’s like to play in a regional game at home.
“All of them said, ‘Dude just wait. You’re going to see how live it is.'”
It was clear following Thursday’s practice that Blackman is definitely ready for the game with Utah.
“I’m that excited,” Blackman said. “I’m looking forward to playing on Friday.”
Blackman’s bat a big part of Rebels’ success this season
Blackman is excited and amped up for his first home regional game, and he will need to settle in quickly and continue to help Ole Miss (43-17) as he has done all season.
Blackman, outside of Woodman and Lartigue, has been one of the most steady Rebels at bat, hitting .329 compared to the .197 batting average he accumulated as a freshman.
Blackman’s hit total also drastically increased from a year ago (24 in 2015 to 73 in 2016), as he took full advantage of a summer and fall of baseball following his freshman campaign.
So what, exactly, has helped Blackman become a better player? Playing last summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League for the Falmouth Commodores–along with Woodman and Wyatt Short–was the key and the beginning to Blackman’s breakout season.
The Rebels are facing a Utes team they have not seen this season. They will need to prepare for Utah’s starting sophomore pitcher Jayson Rose, who earned Pac-12 Honorable Mention a season ago after leading the team with 68 strikeouts, a team-best 3.54 ERA and a record of 3-5 as the team’s starting Sunday pitcher in 2015.
This season, Rose is 8-5 as Utah’s starter on the mound. After practice Thursday, Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco discussed the California native.
Mike Bianco on Utah’s starting pitcher
Over 6,700 tickets have already been sold for this weekend’s NCAA regional games in Oxford. Bianco got word of it and his response was, “A lot of people are excited about baseball still being played in Oxford.”
Lartigue a full-go for Friday
Bianco mentioned Monday that junior catcher Henri Lartigue had passed the concussion test and would go through the concussion protocol before he would be cleared to play against Utah.
Well, Lartigue was cleared on Wednesday, and Bianco hasn’t seen any signs that would prevent Lartigue from stepping onto the field against Utah.
Lartigue suffered a mild concussion in the eighth inning of last Saturday’s semifinal game against eventual Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament champion Texas A&M.
“He looks fine; he said he was fine,” Bianco said.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)
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.