2019 Preseason Top 25 Preview: No. 13 Mississippi
Last Year: 48-17 (18-12 SEC); reached regional final.
Final Ranking: No. 15.
Head Coach (record at school): Mike Bianco (710-312-1, 18 years).
Top 100 Draft Prospects: None.
The Good News: For a team that won the SEC West and was the No. 4 national seed a season ago, Ole Miss returns a wealth of experience among its position players, including senior outfielder and leading hitter Ryan Olenek, as well as All-American closer Parker Caracci. The Rebels last season hit 79 home runs, which was good enough for 12th most in the nation, and with sluggers Chase Cockrell, Thomas Dillard, Tyler Keenan and Cole Zabowski returning, they figure to again have a powerful lineup. Ole Miss last year also ranked in the top 20 in the country in fielding percentage and should again be strong defensively, with shortstop Grae Kessinger and catcher Cooper Johnson leading the way. Sophomore outfielder Carl Gindl is ready to take on a larger role after a breakout summer performance.
The Bad News: Ole Miss must replace its entire weekend rotation of Ryan Rolison—the 22nd overall pick in the draft—Brady Feigl and James McArthur. The Rebels have several options, but it will be up to Bianco to line them up. Highly regarded junior righthander Will Ethridge will likely be asked to take on the Friday night role after mostly pitching out of the bullpen in his first two seasons. Freshman Gunnar Hoglund was drafted 36th overall by the Pirates, but he chose not to sign and figures to make an immediate impact. Other options for the rotation include junior righthander Houston Roth, sophomore lefthander Jordan Fowler and freshman lefthander Doug Nikhazy. The depth of the Rebels’ bullpen will help their inexperienced starters, but finding a trio that can withstand the rigors of SEC play will be critical to their success.
Player To Know: Ryan Olenek, OF.
The Rebels’ leading hitter, Olenek last season hit .350/.388/.464 with 18 doubles. He’ll again play a critical role for Ole Miss, which will need a big senior year from Olenek. While he’ll see most of his action in right field, he has the versatility to play nearly anywhere on the diamond and could see time in center field, second base or third base. He may also get on the mound. He came to Ole Miss as a two-way player but has made just one pitching appearance in three years. The 6-foot-5 righthander may be called on to pitch out of the bullpen, further adding to Ole Miss’ depth and his own versatility.
Path To Omaha: The Rebels had the look of an Omaha team a year ago and started the postseason strong, winning the SEC Tournament and the first two games of the Oxford Regional. But Ole Miss was unable to close out a regional championship, as Tennessee Tech pulled off the upset. With much of its offense back and so much talent on the mound, the Rebels can get back to that level—if they can sort out their rotation.
The Next 5: 2019 College Baseball Recruiting Classes
Five more 2019 NCAA baseball recruiting classes that just missed our initial Top 12 rankings.
|RHP||Gunnar Hoglund||Fr. HS -- Marianna, Fla.|