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Colby Bortles understandably dejected after Ole Miss’ early exit from NCAA Regional

Colby Bortles understandably dejected after Ole Miss’ early exit from NCAA Regional

Oxford, Miss. – Ole Miss third baseman Colby Bortles sat next to teammate Kyle Watson and listened to head coach Mike Bianco try to put into words what it meant for their season to come to an abrupt end at Swayze Field Saturday afternoon.

“It’s hard to talk after that,” Bianco said somberly.

I just told the kids that that’s why it is the greatest game on earth. You have the thrill of victory and it all just rip your heart out. As we sit here, I just feel awful for my guys.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco

Bortles and his teammates had many goals this season, among them: hosting one of the 16 NCAA Regionals, receiving a coveted national seed—or at least being in the conversation for it—and making it all the way to Omaha for the College World Series.

At the post game press conference following the Rebels’ loss to Tulane, Bianco answered questions about the performance of his team, while third baseman Bortles, understandably disappointed in the loss, kept his head down for much of the time as the microphone was passed around the media room.

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Colby Bortles was 2-for-4 with one home run in the Rebels’ loss to Tulane Saturday. (Photo credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

He thought about the unfortunate ending to Ole Miss’ 2016 season, his dreams of playing in Omaha crushed by late-inning heroics from the Utes and Green Wave.

Bortles did what was asked of him this season. He hammered 61 hits, resulting in 39 runs and 51 RBI. He provided explosive power throughout the SEC tournament, notching four doubles to produce a team-high eight RBI in Hoover.

He moved into the program’s top-10 list for doubles in a single season and at the end of the SEC tournament had 21 doubles on the year, ranking him second in the SEC and tied for fifth on the Rebels’ single season list.

In Ole Miss’ win over Vanderbilt that propelled the Rebels into the semifinals, Bortles pounded two doubles that led to a career-high four RBI in the game.

He was second on the team in home runs (nine), trailing only center fielder J.B. Woodman, who led the conference with 14.

Bortles listened with a faraway look on his face while Bianco praised his team’s efforts after the team’s loss to Tulane.

I’m just so proud of this team. I don’t know if many expected us to be in June in Oxford with this team this year. But those guys in the third base dugout did. As a coach, I couldn’t be any prouder. It’s all you can ask, for them to give you everything they can. It’s just a wonderful group of kids and they are great representatives of the University and it is just a shame that it ended like this.

Mike Bianco

Ole Miss came close to playing for the SEC Baseball Tournament title last weekend in Hoover but gave up its three-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning to Texas A&M. The Rebels also had Utah and Tulane on the ropes late in those games until both programs just made a few more hits and pitches than Ole Miss did.

In short, the Rebels played with a lot of energy and effort. They just had some bad breaks at the wrong time.

You look at these two games and our guys played their hearts out. The baseball gods didn’t shine on us. The other teams just got a few more hits, a few more pitches and made a few more plays.

Mike Bianco

There is no shame in losing when you have given it your all. The Rebels won—and lost—with the same game plan, and Colby Bortles was a integral part of it, helping Ole Miss finish with a record of 43-19 and a top-5 RPI going into the NCAA tournament.

Bortles was asked Saturday afternoon if anything changed during the week, following the Rebels’ exciting run in Hoover.

I don’t think much changed. I think we still swung it well. There were a lot of good plays out there. We had some chances with guys on base where we couldn’t come through the last two games and we did in Hoover. I think that was the main thing. I think we swung well, it just didn’t fall for us.

Colby Bortles

Then the inevitable question came from one of the local beat writers: “Why have the Rebels gone 0-2 in NCAA Regionals the last two seasons?”

Bortles paused, as if he, too, was trying to understand what happened. He had been sitting there on the interview dais waiting patiently for the post-game press conference to end, but the junior from Oviedo, Florida opened up and spoke frankly.

I don’t know. It’s really hard; it sucks.

Colby Bortles on the Rebels’ exit from the tourney

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Bortles fields the ball at third in the Rebels’ game vs. Tulane. (Photo credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

“It sucks,” he reiterated as he was overcome with emotion. “We just wanted to go to Omaha.”

Coach Bianco and Watson sat nearby, and when they looked at team captain Bortles, they saw someone who, like themselves, hates to lose—but they also saw someone who truly cares about his team and its fans. His tears were a testament to that.

Though Ole Miss fans do not know if Bortles will forgo his senior year for major league baseball, they do know he has been a true competitor who has represented the Ole Miss Rebels proudly.

(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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