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Rolison, Golsan Power Rebels to 5-4 Win Over Auburn

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More often than not this season, Ryan Rolison's outings have gone as his fastball command has with the success of the former and latter mirroring one another. On this night--a crucial 5-4, series-opening win over Auburn, which elected to save ace Casey Mize for the second game--the command of that pitch was masterful for the immensely talented lefty. After an uncharacteristically shaky outing at South Carolina last weekend, he gave a hearty 6.2 innings of two-run baseball, striking out five and walking four. Ole Miss needed every bit of it as it held off the Tigers.

"Really it was just my fastball command being better," Rolison said. "I was able to get over a slider when I needed to tonight and was able to fill it up."

He cruised through the first two frames, requiring just 17 pitches before slipping out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third by way of a strikeout, in which he blew an elevated fastball past Steven Williams, and then a nifty play from third baseman Tyler Keenan. Rolison exited the mound with a fist pump as the Rebels preserved an early lead and escaped with no damage.

"I needed to make the big pitch and I haven't done that in the past," Rolison said. "I was able to get that fastball in there for a big strikeout and was able to get out of there with no damage."

Rolison exited the game in the sixth inning after throwing his 95th pitch and looked on as Parker Caracci got the last seven outs after relieving Houston Roth, who faced two batters.

"I thought he was really good," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He was really sharp tonight."

Rolison was spotted the early lead thanks to Will Golsan demolishing an 0-2 fastball offering from Tiger starter Davis Daniel over the left field wall in the second inning. The senior captain sandwiched that and an RBI base hit in the fourth around a Nick Fortes solo shot to a similar spot in the third. Golsan was 2-for-4 on the night with the trio of runs driven in.

"I was sitting fastball and trying to just adjust to a breaking ball," Golsan said. "I happened to get my hands out and was short to it."

Ole Miss needed efforts from places across the diamond to gut this thing out. Keenan made two run-saving plays at third base to get the Rebels out of threatening innings. Keenan drove in the game-deciding run in the sixth by cracking a two-out double down the right field line. Parker Caracci--four days removed from the longest outing of his career--got the last seven outs of the game after the Tigers plated three in the seventh and preserved a one-run affair with his ninth save of the season.

"It's the same thing we have been seeing all season," Golsan said. "He fills up the zone with his fastball and his curveball. He is un-hittable. It is great to see."

A team that had let a couple of one-run games slip recently, but also one that has been good in that department for most of the year as a whole, buckled down for seven more outs.

"I think sometimes it is just the time of the year," Bianco said. "He pitched really well at the beginning of the year. If you run out there in enough of those close games sometimes it doesn't work for you. He hit a two-week span where it didn't work out as much. Some of that may be our fault. Maybe before that we shouldn't have let as many runs score. Maybe after that we should have scored a few more runs. It would be hard to believe we would be where we are without the way he has pitched."

Ole Miss will face Mize on Friday as it goes for its fifth SEC series win of the year.

"It's always nice going out and get the first one of the series," Golsan said. "Tomorrow is going swing day and Casey is going to good. We are going to have to come out, bear down and compete."

SIDEBAR: Rebs Sweep Green Wave with 6th Inning Deluge

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The timely hits just keep coming for No. 9 Ole Miss. 

A Thomas Dillard walk loaded the bases one at-bat after Ole Miss had chased Tulane starter Keegan Gillies who had turned in six innings of one-run ball scattering four hits to that point. Senior center fielder Will Golsan dug in and laced a 1-1, 90-mph offering into left field for a two-RBI base hit that gave the Rebels their first lead of the day.

"I was just trying to stick to my approach and keep finding solid contact," Golsan said. "One finally fell. You just have to stay within yourself, tell yourself it is going to come and keep competing up there."

Two batters later Cooper Johnson lifted his second home run of the weekend into the left field bullpen to blow the game open at 6-2. It was the second day in a row Ole Miss put up a five-spot in the sixth inning and let its bullpen seize control of the game the rest of the way. This team has frequently found the timely hit when needed through the first seven games of this season and Sunday was just the latest piece of evidence to back it up.

"I knew I had it off the bat," Johnson said. "The vibe in the dugout is that the offense is going to move runners along, get a bunt down or do something. One through nine there aren't really any holes. It's a pretty safe and reassuring feeling. You don't have to do something special every single time. Someone is going to have your back behind you or in front of you. It is pretty special."

Johnson's first two career home runs both came this weekend as a highlight to what has been a much quicker start at the plate for the gifted sophomore catcher.

"It's just confidence," Johnson said. "Hitting before the game and in the mornings, sticking to the process and not trying to do too much. See the ball and hit the ball. Trying to find a fastball early in counts and adjusting to the breaking ball."

His head coach has seen Johnson hit well the last two fall seasons and seen him rebound from some natural freshman struggles from a year ago.

"Last year was a little tough on him," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He plays with emotion and wants to do so well, to fall off a little offensively last year, that hurt him. But he has gotten off to a great start this year and really looks good."

The first five innings the story was on the mound. James McArthur battled through an early run in the first to put up four scoreless frames to match Gillies, whose lone blemish came in the fourth when Dillard demolished a fastball well over the right field wall. McArthur exited the game in the sixth with the Rebels trailing 2-1.  He scattered six hits and yielded a single earned run in an outing stronger than the box score would lead one to believe.

"I thought he was really good today and that is a really good offense over there," Bianco said. "They pressure you in a lot of ways. They get a lot of good swings off and some scary swings. They are very physical in the middle of the lineup. They have six or seven guys in the middle of the lineup that you really have to pitch to. I thought James was excellent."

Jordan Fowler and Greer Holston helped the Rebels strand a pair of runners in two different innings and Dallas Woolfolk's fourth save completed Ole Miss' second consecutive sweep to start the season 7-0 for the second time in as many years. 

"I think you have to take it for what it is," Bianco said. "I think last year they didn't know what to expect.  They had a lot of success in the first couple weeks and with all the accolades coming in I think people kind of anointed us and we didn't handle the adversity when it came. I think guys are a little more weathered than this year, but we will see. I like the way we are playing."

Ole Miss has played well in all three phases early on this season. The rotation has given up just two earned runs in 32.1 innings so far this season and the bullpen has put the clamp down on offenses to follow them in the late innings. The lineup is hitting well from Grae Kessinger--who has 13 hits in these seven games--at the top all the way down behind him. The middle of the order has proved to be physical and was the driving force behind the pair of five-run sixth innings the last two days. 

"I think this has a different feel," Johnson said. "We are a really close team. Just the depth, the defense and offense and with our pitching staff. I have never played on a team like it. It is really special."

Ole Miss returns to action on Tuesday at home against Murray State before hitting the road for the first time this year next weekend with a three-game set at Long Beach State. First pitch on Tuesday is slated for 4 p.m. CT.

SIDEBAR: Ole Miss Takes Two from Tulane

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It was not quite the typical day at the ballpark for No. 9 Ole Miss, but it was certainly an efficient one as the Rebels put two in the win column over Tulane after Friday night's game was postponed in the fifth inning due to rain.

Game one of this series resumed at noon Saturday with Ole Miss clinging to a 2-1 lead. Will Ethridge replaced Ryan Rolison because of the overnight delay and put up scoreless sixth and seventh innings while Cole Zabowski and Cooper Johnson put a pair of 1-0 offerings in the seats in the bottom of the seventh for some needed insurance. Zabowski sent a fastball over the center field wall and Johnson placed a breaking ball in the Ole Miss bullpen in left field as part of a three-run inning that resulted in a 5-1 lead for the Rebels.

Ethridge ran into some trouble in the eighth when back-to-back doubles turned into a three-run shot from Matt Rowland that made it a 5-4 game, but Will Stokes and Dallas Woolfolk put the clamps on the Green Wave rally and secured the final six outs Ole Miss needed for the win.

After a 45 minute intermission between games, Ole Miss put up arguably its most efficient win of the year in which the offense exploded for nine runs and Brady Feigl turned in six innings of two-hit ball on just 73 pitches. Fiegl overcame an unearned run in a first inning that saw him strike out all three hitters and put together as efficient of an outing as he's had during his career.

"I think efficient is not even fair," Mike Bianco said. "He was super dominant against what I consider to be a good offense. It was a tough day to pitch with the wind gushing out and I thought he was electric, maybe the best outing he has had here and that is saying a lot."

The junior righty found his slider in the early innings and mixed the changeup in during the second and third time through the order. Feigl moved to 2-0 on the season.

"A big part of what they talked to me about is attacking the zone and trying to get ahead because it makes things a lot easier," Feigl said. "I think it definitely helped."

Oddly enough, Feigl's exit was due mostly to a long, five-run sixth inning the offense put together that blew the ballgame open. He certainly did not mind.

"When your offense does that it is hard to complain," Feigl said with a grin.

That's been the story in five of the six games the Rebels have played this season. The offense has backed the pitching staff with ample breathing room to operate, and the most encouraging sign to Bianco is that it is coming from all over. It's started at the top of the order with Grae Kessinger's 11 hits in six games. Kessinger homered in the bottom of the first in game two and sent a double off the left-center wall that brought another run across in the fifth. The sophomore shortstop has been as productive as Bianco could possibly ask for in the leadoff slot through six games. 

Kessinger has taken an aggressive approach of jumping on fastballs early in counts and it's paid dividends.

"I am seeing it well and being aggressive," Kessinger said. "My swing feels good and it is all just working right now. Everything is going well and I just want to stick to my approach and keep being aggressive."

He's seeing pitches when he needs to, though. He worked a full count walk in the first game and has only struck out twice in 18 at-bats so far this year.

"I thought him answering in the first inning after we went down was huge," Bianco said. "He has had a lot of big hits for us early on this season."

Zabowski homered for the second time this year and Johnson's was the first of his career. Chase Cockrell went 2-for-3 in game two. He and Zabowski are a couple of batters in the middle of the Ole Miss order that have shown some pop along with Tim Elko and Tyler Keenan, which encouraged the Ole Miss head coach.

"You're expecting that from some of those young guys in Elko and Keenan," Bianco said. "We have some physical hitters in the middle there. He is off to a good start and swinging it well."

Aside from a lapse or two in a couple innings, Ole Miss has defended well this year and particularly this weekend. Thomas Dillard, Will Golsan and Olenek made plays that potentially saved runs in the outfield. Fortes started a huge 3-6-1 double play that got the Rebels out of a slippery spot in a one-run contest in the eighth inning of game one.

"I thought we were outstanding on defense," Bianco said. "One of the things I challenged and we wanted to improve was outfield defense. It's not that we were bad but the great teams have difference makers out there. We have a catcher and two shortstops out there and they make the regular play. Today, they made some great plays with Golsan making a couple of sensational plays as did Olenek, and Thomas made a great play on Friday night. Those change the game."

First pitch for game three is slated for game three is slated for 1:30 p.m. CT on Sunday.

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (March 31-April 6, 2015)

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review

March 31-April 6, 2015

Baseball

- Ole Miss finished the week with a 2-2 mark to remain a .500 overall record for the season (16-16). 

- The Rebels claimed a midweek victory over Memphis before dropping its first home weekend series of the year by losing two-of-three to Tennessee. In the two victories, Ole Miss rallied from three-run deficits due to clutch hitting. 

- Against Memphis, the Rebels went 6-for-17 at the dish with runners on base for a .353 clip. With two outs, Ole Miss went 7-for-15 (.467) throughout the game. 

- The trend continued to the next game, a Friday night win over Tennessee. As a team, the Rebels were 6-for-14 with two outs, 7-for-20 with runners on and 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position, scoring five of their 10 runs with two outs in the inning. Ole Miss also finished with a season high for runs (10) and hits (13) in a Southeastern Conference game this season. 

- Freshman leadoff hitter Will Golsan recorded three hits, tying his career high, in both of the wins to lead the Rebels, including a career-high four RBI in Friday's victory over Tennessee. 

- Junior left-hander Christian Trent earned the win over UT to improve to 5-2 on the season. He went 6.0 innings strong, giving up three runs and scattering seven hits with two walks and five. Senior Sikes Orvis homered in the win, the seventh of the season and 25th of his career. 

- Golsan ended the week with a .412 average at the plate. Sophomore J.B. Woodman also had a solid week by batting .467. Woodman scored six of the Rebels' 22 runs, including a solo homer in the top of the ninth at Memphis to give the Rebels an important insurance run. Woodman tied Golsan for the team lead in hits throughout the week. 

- Junior Connor Cloyd also produced at the dish when called upon to fill in as the team's designated hitter. In two games, Cloyd smacked multiple hits in each contests for the first two multi-hit games of his Ole Miss career. Cloyd scored three runs on Friday night to match his season total. 

- On Saturday, junior Mitchel Babb pitched a career-high 3.1 innings without allowing a run and striking out four to surpass his season strikeout total in one game. 

- Sophomore Wyatt Short appeared out of the bullpen in three of the four games and did not allow a run. Short saved both of the Rebels' wins before pitching the retiring all four batters he faced in the final game of the week on Sunday. 

- Short allowed just one hit, limiting opposing hitters to a .083 average at the plate. Short now has a 3-1 record, five saves and an impressive 0.81 ERA as well as 27 strikeouts, only seven walks and just two earned runs over 22.1 innings (13 appearances).

Men's Tennis

- Ole Miss won both its matches last week, shutting out Tennessee and Kentucky to close out the regular season home schedule at 10-1. The Rebels improved to 15-6 overall and 7-3 in the SEC.

- The Rebels have now won six straight against Tennessee, while snapping a six-match losing streak to Kentucky.

- Senior Nik Scholtz went 3-0 in singles and doubles in his last regular season homestand, including team with Zvonimir Babic to clinch the doubles point against Tennessee with a win over the No. 2 team in the nation.  Scholtz has now won 21 of his last 22 home matches.

- Stefan Lindmark clinched the win over Tennessee to improve to 12-3 at No. 2 singles and remain undefeated in the SEC at 7-0.

- Freshman Grey Hamilton made his SEC singles debut against Kentucky and won in straight sets to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead.

Women's Tennis

- Ole Miss split a pair of matches on the road, losing to No. 5 Georgia 4-0 and then shutting out Tennessee 4-0 to improve to 12-9 overall and 4-8 in the SEC.

- Senior Julia Jones clinched the win over Tennessee and picked up her 99th career victory. She needs just one more to become the seventh player in school history to join the 100-club.

- The Rebels have now won two straight and three of four against Tennessee.

- The Rebels have now posted three shutouts in SEC play this year.

Track & Field

- Ole Miss had a great weekend at the Tiger Track Classic in Auburn in a performance that head coach Brian O'Neal called a "complete meet."

- Overall, the Rebels earned three event titles, set one school record and posted several marks that rank among the NCAA's best this outdoor season.

- Phillip Young won the triple jump and long jump on the Plains. His triple jump of 52-2.75 ranks him No. 9 in the NCAA this year. His wind-assisted long jump of 25-4.75 (+5.3 wind) would have ranked him fourth nationally if not for the wind reading over the allowable +4.0.

- Dameon Morgan claimed the 800-meter title in 1:51.04.

- True freshman Shannon Ray had a breakout performance in the 100 meters, running 11.41 (first among collegians) to rank No. 2 in school history and sixth in the nation this season. She also helped the 4x100-meter relay team to a runner-up finish in 44.8, just off their season best of 44.73 that ranks them top 10 in the nation.

- Redshirt-freshman Dempsey McGuigan set a school record in the men's hammer throw in his first official outdoor competition as a Rebel, heaving the hammer 212 feet and 7 inches. That ranks him 14th nationally this year.

- Jalen Miller placed third overall and first among collegians in the men's 100 meters with a season-best time of 10.38 that ranks him 19th in the country this year.

- Kierra White placed fourth in the women's long jump with a season-best leap of 20-1 that ranks her 20th in the country.

Women's Golf

- The Ole Miss women's golf team hosted the seventh annual Rebel Intercollegiate April 3-5. Ole Miss placed ninth with a three-day score of 896 (298-295-303--896) in its annual tournament which closed the regular season for the Rebels. 

- Sophomore Maria Toennessen had a great weekend, posting a 54-hole career low of 216 and in opening round action carded a 70 for her 18-hole career low. Toennesssen competed as an individual but was the Rebels top finisher on the weekend, placing eighth for her first top 10 finish. 

- Freshman Sofia Idoyaga also had a great weekend. The Argentine carded back-to-back rounds of 73 in the second and third rounds, which tied her career low for 18 holes. Additionally,  her 54-hole score of 225 is a new career low for the freshman. 

Softball

- Ole Miss' Allison Brown continued to play well for the Rebels in the weekend series at No. 2 LSU, hitting her fifth home run of the season and bringing the season total to 32 for the squad. 

- Ole Miss has passed several marks from the 2014 season with 19 games left in the season. The Rebels have hit 32 home runs, passing last season's total of 30 home runs on the year. 

- Ole Miss has also broken the mark for steals a year ago, successfully nabbing 69 bases in 2015 after only attempting 60 steals a year ago. 

- The Rebels have posted 22 wins, matching last year's win total and the five wins in SEC play bests last year's three-game win total in conference play and is one shy of totaling the win mark in SEC play over the previous two seasons.

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (March 17-23, 2015)

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review

March 17-23, 2015

Men's Basketball

- Ole Miss scored 62 second-half points to overcome a 17-point halftime deficit, rallying past 11th-seeded BYU 94-90 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday.

- The Rebels fell to Xavier 76-57 Thursday in the NCAA Tournament Second Round to end their season with a record of 21-13.

- Ole Miss is one of only three schools in the SEC (Florida and Kentucky) to advance to the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years.

Women's Basketball

- Ole Miss moved to 2-0 in WNIT action with a 63-48 win over Georgia Tech in second round WNIT action. Ole Miss is now 22-22 all-time in postseason action and is a perfect 3-0 in WNIT games played at Tad Smith Coliseum.

- The win sets up a rematch with Middle Tennessee, the team that handed Ole Miss its first loss of the season which happens to be coached by Rick Insell, father of Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell.

- Tia Faleru posted her 14th double-double of the season and her 34th career double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds against Georgia Tech. She also reached the 20-point mark for the 18th time in her career and for the first time since scoring 23 in a road win at Auburn on Feb. 19.

- With its two WNIT games, Ole Miss is just one win away from the first 20-win season since 2006-07. Ole Miss, who advances to the third round of the WNIT for the just the second time, will take on the winner of NC State vs. Temple if they should defeat the Blue Raiders.

- Ole MissĀ¹ 20 assists vs. UT Martin in opening round action are the most for the Rebels in the WNIT and the 80 points are the third most for Ole Miss in WNIT action. Additionally, the 14 steals against Georgia Tech are the most in WNIT action.

Baseball

- The Rebels went 3-1 this week, including taking 2-of-3 from No. 1 Florida. Ole Miss started the week by rallying in the bottom of the ninth to defeat Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 7-6. Behind solid pitching and home runs in the first inning of each game, the Rebs continued their winning ways with victories in the first two games against Florida to claim the series. 

- Through his first two career SEC starts, Brady Bramlett has allowed just two earned runs in 13.0 innings of work. 

- With the series win, Ole Miss has won 12 of its last 18 home series against top-10 teams, dating back to 2003, including a 4-0 record against No. 1 ranked teams. The stretch also included series wins over No. 1 Georgia in 2009, No. 1 South Carolina in 2011 and No. 1 Florida in 2012. 

- Ole Miss was 3-0 this week with the senior Orvis in the lineup, including a pair of victories over No. 1 Florida. In the first two weekends of SEC play, Orvis is hitting .421 with three doubles, two home runs and nine RBI for an .895 slugging percentage, all team highs. 

- Freshman Will Golsan earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors, first for Golsan in his young Ole Miss career as well as the Rebels' first weekly accolade of the 2015 season

- Golsan led Ole Miss with a .389 average at the plate this week. He helped spark a ninth-inning rally before scoring the game-winning run against UAPB. He also recorded three multi-hit games throughout the week and scored a team-high four runs.

Softball

- The Rebels picked up the first SEC win of the season and a series win over nationally-ranked Mississippi State this past weekend.

- The series win over Mississippi State marked the first since the 2010 season.

- It also provided Ole Miss its first series win against a nationally-ranked opponent since the 2009 season (No. 12 Tennessee).

- Ole Miss picked up an 8-7 win in nine innings and a 14-8 win to sweep a doubleheader and claim the series.

Men's Tennis

- No. 13 Ole Miss won both its SEC matches this past weekend, downing Auburn 4-1 and No. 15 Florida 4-0 to improve to 12-4 overall and 4-1 in the SEC.

 - It marked the second win over Florida this season.

 - Senior Nik Scholtz went 4-0 in singles and doubles including clinching the win against Florida. He is now 10-3 at No. 1 singles.

 - Freshman Gustav Hansson went 3-0 in singles and doubles, including clinching the doubles point against Auburn in a tiebreaker.

 - Junior Stefan Lindmark also went 3-0 in singles and doubles, clinching both the doubles point and the match against Auburn. He improved to 9-3 at No. 2 singles.

Track & Field

- Led by freshman sprinter Shannon Ray, the Ole Miss women posted a pair of event victories and saw several personal bests during the outdoor season opener at the Alabama Relays this past weekend. Ray won the 100-meter title in her college outdoor debut Friday, clocking a personal best of 11.74, which ranks her top 10 in school history. Senior Jhorden Hunter was runner-up in 11.79.

- The Ole Miss women captured the 4x100-meter relay crown Saturday with a time of 44.73 that ranks sixth-best in school history and sixth-best in the nation so far this outdoor season. The Rebels' squad consisted of Nicole Henderson, Ray, Khadijah Suleman and Hunter.

- A number of other freshmen had strong outdoor debuts on the women's side. Brittany Kelly tied for third in the high jump with a clearance of 5-7 that ties her for 10th in school history. Lanae Newsome got sixth in the triple jump and ranks 10th in school history with a mark of 39-5.75. Emily Bean ran 17:25.15 to enter the school record books at No. 9 in the 5,000 meters.

- Ole Miss' small contingent of men had some highlights despite resting most of the normal stars. Juniors Dameon Morgan and Holland Sherrer, who normally run the 800 meters, got fourth and fifth in the 400 in 48.59 and 48.80, respectively. In the high jump, junior Adam Aguirre cleared 6-8.75 to place fifth. 

- On Thursday night, Nathan Loe and Kevin Conway put up solid marks in the hammer throw. Loe went 202-3 to place fourth overall (15th-best in NCAA this year), while Conway posted a personal-best mark of 195-11 that moved him up to third-best in the school record books.

Women's Tennis

- No. 17 Ole Miss dropped both its matches this past weekend, falling to No. 2 Florida and South Carolina on the road.  The Rebels are now 11-6 overall and 3-5 in the SEC.

- Senior Julia Jones beat the No. 5 ranked player in the nation on Friday for her 96th career win. She needs just four more to become the fifth player in program history to join the 100-club.

- Freshman Natalie Suk also picked up a big win Friday, defeating the No. 32 ranked player.

Men's Golf

- Junior Forrest Gamble notched six birdies in his final round en route to a 69 at the Schenkel Invitational Saturday.

- Gamble posted 1-over 73 in the second round earlier in the day that included five birdies and tied in a tie for 40th.

- Ole Miss finished 14th in the team standings with a score of 7-over par 871.

Previewing the Batting Lineup and Pitching Staff

Ole Miss held its annual media day on Monday inside the Diamond Club at Oxford-Unversity Stadium, ahead of the Rebels' season opener Friday at 4 p.m. against William & Mary, the opening game of a three-game series. 

Here are some notes and quotes from the media opportunity with head coach Mike Bianco and selected players, looking at the batting lineup and the pitching staff heading into the start of the 2015 season.

The Hitters:

"As we start this spring, I in a way struggled to explain to the team, something different and something exciting for you to write about," Bianco said. "But, it seems that I come back to the same sentence, it seems very similar to last year. What I mean by that is we return some big pieces on the field. 

"When you look around the field on Friday, you will see Sikes Orvis, Errol Robinson, J.B. Woodman, Austin Knight, Colby Bortles. These are some guys who certainly played big roles for us last year in getting to the College World Series. And like last year, there is certainly going to be room for some new guys to step in and help us."

Projected Defensive Lineup:

C Austin Knight

1B Sikes Orvis

2B Tate Blackman

3B Colby Bortles

SS Errol Robinson

LF Connor Cloyd/Josh Watkins/Kyle Watson

CF J.B. Woodman

RF Cameron Dishon

Speaking to the batting order, Bianco said Woodman will likely lead off, followed by Robinson, Orvis, Bortles and Henri Lartigue, who will back up Knight at catcher and be a possible designated hitter. After those five in the order, Bianco said a lot of it will be determined by lefty-righty matchups.

More on Austin Knight:

Knight has appeared in 74 games over the last three year, drawing the start in 16 games, including two games behind the plate in the College World Series as senior Will Allen moved to designated hitter due to injury. During his career, Knight has played behind two Johnny Bench Award finalists in Allen and Stuart Turner, who won the award in 2013.

Knight: "I'm very confident going into the season. I'm looking forward to getting out there and competing against somebody else. I got to play behind two very good catchers and very good people (Stuart Turner and Will Allen). Being able to learn from those guys has been great."

Bianco, on Knight: "To catch in our system, every coach on the staff was a catcher, it's tough to catch here. We're very hard on the catchers. There is a high expectation, not only for your performance, but also your leadership, getting the signals, being able to handle the staff, body language and all these other things we talk about. That's one of the reasons why Austin will be starting on Friday night. Not only can he handle it behind the plate and catch the ball and hit for us, but he's our best option as far as leadership and doing all the things we need from that position."

LHP Christian Trent, on Knight: "I was close to him last year, but Will caught the majority of my games. He's going to be fine. He's going to step up and take the place of Will. He has a good arm. He's really good at receiving the ball. As a pitcher, I'm already comfortable with him."

More on Tate Blackman:

Sikes Orvis and Errol Robinson return at their respective spots in the infield. They are joined by Colby Bortles, who played in 40 games, drawing the start in 14 games, nine at designated hitter and five at first baseman, as well as Tate Blackman, the preseason SEC Freshman of the Year by D1Baseball.com, who will start at second base for the Rebels.

Blackman: "It's a blessing to get the opportunity. I came in here as a freshman, trying to work hard on and off the field. My goal was to come in here and making a big impact my freshman year, and hopefully Friday will be a good day for me and for my team."

Bianco, on Blackman: "We think he is our best option at second. We saw a kid that didn't play like a freshman, not just with his ability, but with the way he carries himself. Tate looks like the guy that is most ready to play. He is an outstanding hitter, runs well and is a good defender. I am excited about all of the freshman.

Orvis, on Blackman: "He has a lot of talent, a lot of power, a lot of juice, and he's not afraid to mess up. He gets right in there. He's a hard-nosed player. He's going to be really good. The game speeds up on him as it does for all freshmen, but he has all the confidence in the world in himself, so he'll be fine."

More on the corner outfielders:

J.B. Woodman, the Rebels' leading returning hitter by batting average (.298), returns to the outfield, as he moves to center field, having played mostly right field and designated hitter this past season. Cameron Dishon will step into a bigger role as the start right fielder, having played mostly as a pinch runner and defensive replacement over the last two years. 

At the other corner outfield spot, what Bianco called the big question mark, as they open the season, Bianco said they will probably play a lot of guys to start with, mentioning junior college transfers Connor Cloyd and Josh Watkins, as well as freshman Kyle Watson by name. Another freshman, Will Golsan, might also figure in the mix.

Bianco, on left field: "I don't know if you need to have two games in a row or three games in a row," Bianco said. I don't know if there's a number. It's more feel. The goal over the first four weeks is to find the best lineup by the time we get to LSU on the opening weekend of SEC play. One of those guys can DH, somebody can play left, one of the other outfielders could sit a game and we can play two of those guys, so a lot of it just depends."

The Pitching Staff:

"On the mound, we are a little different than last year in the sense that last year at this time I think that was the big talk and most of the questions in the preseason press conference were about the pitching and the starting pitching, maybe for the lack of experience in the projected starters," Bianco said. 

"This year we return two of the SEC starters (Christian Trent and Sam Smith) from last year, along with some guys who have tons of experience like Scott Weathersby, Wyatt Short and Matt Denny. These are guys who gained some valuable experience for us last year."

Friday: LHP Christian Trent

Saturday: RHP Sam Smith

Sunday: RHP Brady Bramlett

Trent, on the move from Saturday starter to Friday starter: "My routine is not going to change. You're still coming to the field and do everything pregame I did last year. The role is different. Pitching on Saturday, the mindset was to win the series or push the series to a third game. I like the role of Friday because you can start the series off with a win and give your team a chance to get ahead in the series early."

More on Bramlett and Johnson:

Earlier in the spring, Bianco said Sean Johnson, a 6-foot-7 right-hander from the junior college ranks, would be a weekend, but he's been dealing with tendinitis and will be limited to bullpen work in the first weekend. In his place, Smith will move up to Saturday, and Bramlett will get the start on Sunday. Bramlett, himself, missed the last part of the 2013 season and the entire 2014 season due to recovery from a torn labrum.

Bianco, on Bramlett: "You don't know when they come off an injury where they are going to be or how they are going to be that first year back. When they are released and able to pitch you have to see how they are. 

"Brady had a really good fall. Once we got back, his three starts were probably better than any of the starters. He was pretty spotless here this January and early February. We are excited. He is a guy when we recruited him a couple years ago we knew would have a big time fastball. His slider keep coming, and he has improved his change-up. We really think he is going to have a big year."

Bianco, on Johnson: "We mentioned earlier to some of you that Sean Johnson would be a weekend starter. He came up a few days before our first intersquad game with some tendonitis in his shoulder. He is fine and he threw a bullpen on Friday. Sean will throw another bullpen tomorrow. He will not pitch in the first weekend, he just isn't in shape enough to start and log that many innings. Look for him to, at some point, get back into that starting role."

More on the bullpen:

After the graduation of Brett Huber two seasons ago, the program's all-time saves leader with 38, five different players recorded saves for the Rebels this past season, two of whom return in left-hander Wyatt Short and right-hander Scott Weathersby. Bianco also mentioned left-hander Matt Denny and right-hander Will Stokes, a freshman, as arms out of the bullpen. 

As far as the closer situation, Bianco said it will be a combination of guys, at least to start the season, similar to last season.

More from Bianco: "At the beginning, we'll go with a handful of guys and see if somebody emerges. Last year, we tried to force that a little bit. I think that guy has to just emerge. If that's the case after a certain period of time, if there's one guy we are better if he's pitching at the end of the game, then certainly we will do that. 

"We have shown an ability to do that in the past, when you look back at guys like Brett Huber, Jake Morgan, Scott Bittle or Stephen Head. If not, you can certainly win the other way, where you put the best guy out there on that particular day, much like we did last year, especially at the end of the year."

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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    in post Madden 17 Ratings for Former Rebels

    Jamie laverty said:

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