“We return six starters that were here last year and participated in a Regional final,” he said of last season’s 37-win team. “Last year when we went to the Regional, we only had four players on that team that had been to postseason before.”
The Rebels had participated in NCAA postseason play nine of the previous ten seasons. In 2011 they did not. In 2012 they made it back to the Regional final. And with a young team
“Yet when we looked at that team of 35 players, the attrition (in baseball) is so quick, many of the guys that got you there last year had never experienced postseason before,” Bianco said. “We have as much experience as I can remember on both sides of the ball, and we have as as many key components returning."
Half of those four are back this year. Alex Yarbrough and Matt Snyder are gone. Tanner Mathis and Brett Huber return.
“Last year’s team lacked an identity,” Bianco said of this year's Ole Miss club. “This year’s team certainly has an identity.”
That identity begins with experience. And it includes pitching - Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers and Chris Ellis, who pitched 31.2 innings last season. And a rehabbed Brett Huber as its closer.
“(Josh) Laxer, (Hawtin) Buchanan, (Tanner) Bailey, (Aaron) Greenwood, (Sam) Smith, all guys who pitched last year in their first year who gained valuable experience. And left-handers in Jeremy Massie, Austin Blunt, Matt Denny, and Scott Ashford.”
Offensively the Rebels will be better, according to Bianco, and he states a couple of reasons why.
“Gone under the radar is the offense, because certainly we talk about pitching and defense, and also how the bats changed the game. But our offense, that was second in the Southeastern Conference last year, returns six of the starting nine players. I think we’ll be as athletic as we’ve been in some time.”
With Tanner Mathis, Auston Bousfield, Will Jamison, and Preston Overbey in the mix, the Rebels are a talented outfield.
“It could be one of the fastest outfields in the country,” Bianco said.
Andrew Mistone and Austin Anderson give the Rebels experience on the left side of the infield, while Lance Wilson is the new starter at second base. At first base, Sikes Orvis or Will Allen will start and the other likely DH.
Stuart Turner at catcher has been impressive.
“Physically he’s as talented as any catcher we’ve ever had,” Bianco said. “We’re excited about how he’s grown as an offensive player, and he’ll bat in the middle of the lineup.
Bianco said the Rebels are ready to go.
“It’s obviously an exciting time of the year for us,” Bianco said. “Our expectations as a program internally and from a players standpoint, we feel this is as good a club as we’ve had in some time. We’re excited to get started.”