Preseason Top 25 Capsules: No. 16 Ole Miss

2017 Record: 32-25 (14-16 in SEC); missed NCAA Tournament. Final ranking: NR Coach (Record at school): Mike Bianco (662-295-1, 17 years). Top 200 2018 Draft Prospects: LHP Ryan Rolison (11), RHP Dallas Woolfolk (114).

The good news: Ole Miss had a very young team last year as it relied heavily on underclassmen, especially members of its top-ranked 2016 recruiting class. As is often the case with young teams, the Rebels were inconsistent and ultimately ended up on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. But with the bulk of that team back, including lefthander Ryan Rolison, who emerged over the summer as the top pitcher in the Cape Cod League, Ole Miss has the pieces necessary to bounce back this spring.  

The bad news: The Rebels’ young talent is still very well regarded and now has a year’s worth of SEC experience, but the young hitters especially will have to be better than they were a year ago. Last season, Ole Miss hit .253 as a team, the worst batting average in the SEC. And the offense will have to make the leap forward without its top two power threats from a year ago, as infielders Colby Bortles and Tate Blackman have moved on to pro ball. Outfielder Thomas Dillard and first baseman/catcher Nick Fortes will be looked to as potential run producers for the Rebels.

Returner to know: Ryan Olenek, OF/INF: The Rebels a lot of versatility in their lineup, which will allow them to play matchups and give teams different looks over the course of a weekend. Olenek is perhaps the most versatile player on the team, capable of playing anywhere in the outfield, as well as first, second and third base. His speed and hittability fit well at the top of the lineup.

Path to Omaha: Ole Miss might have more depth on the mound than it has had in more than a decade and will need it to return to contending in the rugged SEC. Rolison’s emergence gives the rotation the true Friday starter it lacked last year, and having righthanders Dallas Woolfolk, Houston Roth and Will Stokes at the back of the bullpen can shorten games. If the Rebels come up with enough timely hitting, they could make a deep tournament run.

2018 lineup:

C Cooper Johnson, So. .213/.301/.269 | 108 AB | 0 HR | 8 RBI
1B Nick Fortes, Jr. .319/.382/.486 | 138 AB | 5 HR | 32 RBI
2B Anthony Servideo, Fr. HS – Jupiter, Fla.
3B Tyler Keenan, Fr. HS – Clayton, N.C.
SS Grae Kessinger, So. .175/.287/.247 | 154 AB | 2 HR | 16 RBI
LF Thomas Dillard, So. .206/.329/.348 | 141 AB | 4 HR | 12 RBI
CF Will Golsan, Sr. .312/.372/.407 | 221 AB | 3 HR | 22 RBI
RF Ryan Olenek, Jr. .272/.317/.398 | 206 AB | 3 HR | 25 RBI
DH Tim Rowe, Sr. .254/.293/.405 | 126 AB | 3 HR | 20 RBI
LHP Ryan Rolison, So. 6-3, 3.06 ERA | 62 IP | 64 SO | 0 SV
RHP James McArthur, Jr. 3-6, 4.73 ERA | 65 IP | 60 SO | 0 SV
RHP Will Ethridge, So. 2-2, 2.41 ERA | 41 IP | 50 SO | 1 SV
RP Dallas Woolfolk, Jr. 3-2, 2.15 ERA | 38 IP | 41 SO | 12 SV
RP Houston Roth, So. 3-0, 1.57 ERA | 29 IP | 41 SO | 0 SV

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