Coach Bianco discusses the Rebels’ scrimmage wins over Jacksonville State
OXFORD, Miss. — The Ole Miss baseball team displayed two dominating performances Saturday at Swayze, winning 6-0 and 12-0 in two seven-inning games against Jacksonville State. In their first fall scrimmages of the year, outside of intrasquads, the Rebels showcased a fresh lineup mixed with transfers, freshmen, and returning players.
Transfer hitters Jackson Ross and Andrew Fischer
Head coach Mike Bianco says that while there are obvious benefits of upgrading a roster through the transfer portal, there are also additional challenges that come with it. He complimented two specific players, FAU transfer Jackson Ross and Duke transfer Andrew Fischer, who both reached base at least three times Saturday.
“We’ve had a lot of new faces so you know sometimes in the fall it’s a little mixed emotions,” Bianco began. “Sometimes it’s good because there’s a lot of teaching going on and as a coach, that’s why you get into this, but then the negative is there is a lot of teaching. It seems like every time you turn around nobody in the infield has ever done this before so you know there’s that part that can be a little frustrating but we’ve had a good fall up to this point and I’m proud,” Bianco explained.
“The new guys have been terrific, the two guys you just talked to (Jackson) Ross and (Andrew) Fischer not only played really well, but they played like older guys. They played like guys that have been here and certainly guys that have played at this level before, but also they’ve brought some leadership here which is again one of the things that you always worry about when you bring in so many new guys out of the portal that are not from your program.”
Mike Bianco on transfers Andrew Fischer and Jackson Ross
Catcher Campbell Smithwick
Another new face introduced to Rebel fans is freshman catcher Campbell Smithwick, who didn’t have to go far to attend Ole Miss. According to Perfect Game recruiting, Smithwick, who played for Oxford High School, was the fourth-best catcher in the country of the 2023 class, and he has quickly been proving why.
Campbell started at catcher against Jacksonville State Saturday, where he played for the entirety of the first scrimmage and also launched a 360-foot solo home run to right-center field. Smithwick’s impact as a hitter and a catcher has not gone unnoticed by Coach Bianco, who was also a catcher at LSU during his college days.
“He’s certainly the highest-touted player in that class (2023), and well deserved. He’s super talented, and a kid that we knew for years when he came here he was going to have a chance to play and play immediately. In his first inter-squad game I think he hit a home run, in his first fall game he hit a home run, and he caught well. But he’s also a kid that wants to get better. He realizes that it’s not the easiest program to be a catcher, especially a freshman catcher because all of the coaches have been catchers and are very critical of that position.”
Coach Bianco on catcher Campbell Smithwick
Pitchers JT Quinn and Grayson Saunier
Coach Bianco also made a point to give credit to his pitching staff, specifically talking about the performances of sophomores Grayson Saunier and JT Quinn who both shared the second-most starts on the team last year as freshmen.
Saunier and Quinn each pitched two scoreless innings on Saturday and featured middle-to-upper 90-mile-per-hour fastballs with dominant sliders sitting around 85-87 miles per hour.
Quinn notched the highest velocity of the day, recorded at 97 miles per hour, while Saunier threw the second-hardest, topping at 94. Bianco took a minute to talk about his talented sophomores as they enter year two in the program.
“I think you saw it today. (They have) a lot more confidence. You watch JT who pitched with a lot of emotion out there. Grayson, you know the stuff has always been really, really good. Unfortunately for those guys, last year wasn’t typical. As a freshman you come into the SEC to be pushed into the Saturday or Sunday roles — usually, those are roles that are passed out to older guys. Unfortunately, because of injuries and the lack of depth on the mound, they were thrust into some things that probably weren’t fair sometimes, but they’ve handled it. Getting beat up as a freshman, although it’s not fun, I think it will pay huge dividends for them and I think you saw a little bit of that today.”
Coach Bianco on Grayson Saunier and JT Quinn
Overall, Coach Bianco was positive after the Rebs defeated a Jacksonville State team they lost to last year — and after his pitching staff collectively did not allow a single run through two scrimmages.
“I’m happy today. I thought we played really well in all three phases, I thought we swung it well, but we pitched it really well. Since 2018 when we started the fall scrimmages, I’m not sure if we’ve ever had a scrimmage where we haven’t given up a run. There were innings where we had some traffic out but guys made pitches and got off the field,” Bianco said.
Ole Miss will scrimmage Memphis on October 29.
(Feature image credit: Jennifer Saunier)