By Judson Scott
The Ole Miss football team is barely in the midst of their respected season; however, Rebel fans can also begin to anticipate the beginning of the Ole Miss baseball season.
The 2020 Rebel campaign saw their first live-action play of the fall this past weekend when the team split and played two inter-squad games against each other.
For the Rebels, this is their first live-action since being knocked from the NCAA Super Regionals by the University of Arkansas last June.
The 2019 Rebel baseball season was yet another very solid run for head coach Mike Bianco and the Rebels. The Rebels finished the regular season 41-27 but really turned it on late as they made a deep run into the SEC tournament before ultimately losing to eventual SEC champ and national champ, Vanderbilt.
Even after another deep SEC tournament run, followed by an appearance in the Super Regionals, Ole Miss fans are still anxious for that lucrative trip to Omaha, Nebraska, a place they have not been since 2014.
Much of the angst for the upcoming year is focused on the nation’s number two recruiting class that Bianco was able to bring to campus. The 2020 Rebels roster will feature 19 freshmen joining the team and trying to adapt to the rigor of playing in the SEC.
Bianco and the Rebels hope to have a nice balance between young guys and veterans because the Rebels are bringing back 15 players, many of them playing an important role on last year’s team.
The Rebels are also adding three junior college transfers to the roster: Ben Van Cleve, Braden Forsyth and Cael Baker. Junior College transfers are becoming a big trend in the SEC, and the Rebels hope they struck gold with these pick-ups.
It is no secret, however, that the Rebels lost a lot of players from last year’s team. With players such as Grae Kessinger, Thomas Dillard, Will Ethridge, Cooper Johnson, Cole Zabowski and Houston Roth all turning to the pros. Bianco is going to have to look for some young players to step up this year.
These young men are going to have to advance very quickly for the Rebels if they look to continue their success in the SEC. Recently, Ole Miss released its 2020 baseball schedule which includes some very tough draws.
It is well known that the SEC is a powerhouse for baseball, and Ole Miss’ SEC schedule represents that well.
The Rebels will play all the SEC West foes, hosting LSU, Arkansas and Auburn while having to travel to play Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Alabama.
The Rebels drew a very tough draw in their SEC East foes as they will host South Carolina and Vanderbilt but must go on the road to face powerhouses Florida and Georgia.
Having Florida, Georgia and Vanderbilt on your schedule could make for a very tough year and it will be interesting to see how Bianco manages this schedule.
Per usual, Ole Miss has a very tough non-conference schedule beginning with the University of Louisville opening weekend Feb. 14-16. Bianco’s freshmen are going to have to get acclimated to college ball quick as the Cardinals are coming off another outstanding year that saw them reach the College World Series.
From the looks of things, Ole Miss will likely go with either Gunnar Hoguland or Doug Nikhazy Friday, Feb. 14, against the Cardinals followed by the other on Saturday. The big question remains, who will get the ball on Sunday?
Many different pitchers threw this weekend and Mike Bianco became impressed with the young arms he saw.
Many things point to Derek Diamond, the freshman, getting the ball on Sunday for the Rebels.
Diamond, who originally committed to play baseball at Stanford, ranked as the number two overall right-handed pitcher in California and 13th nationally.
Diamond excelled over the summer and has some powerful stuff from the right side. He topped out at 93 miles per hour in high school, and that will only continue to improve after getting on a college workout plan.
On the offensive side, the Rebels are going to need big production from returning starters Anthony Servideo and Tyler Keenan. Keenan has been impressive thus far in fall scrimmages going 4-5 in just 15 innings.
Servideo and Keenan need to become leaders this year as the spotlight is on them.
Cael Baker, Hayden Dunhurst and Ben Gilbert were also highly regarded recruits looking to make an immediate impact for the Rebels this spring.
The Rebels will have two major events going on this fall in order to prepare them for the spring. The Rebels will, of course, continue their tradition of the Omaha Challenge: a grueling week of workouts competition followed by one of the most intense races many have ever seen. (All videos can be seen on the Ole Miss Baseball Twitter account).
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) October 6, 2019
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) October 6, 2019
The team will also participate in the Pizza Bowl which allows two captains to pick their teams and compete in inter-squad games.
The Rebel baseball team has a very tough year ahead, but with the mix of young players and veterans, Bianco hopes this team will be able to put it all together.
The Rebels will open the season at home on Feb. 14, 2019, and season tickets have already gone on sale at OleMissTix.com.