Momentum, whatever it might be worth in baseball, doesn’t really carry over from one season to the next. The fact that Ole Miss finished the 2020 season on a 16-game winning streak is cool but will mean nothing on the field to start 2021. However, the cred the Rebs established has carried over. UM is ranked fifth in Collegiate Baseball Magazine’s preseason poll after finishing third, with a 16-1 record, in the final poll of 2020 last March. The Rebels earned the lofty ranking despite the loss of two star players, Tyler Keenan and Anthony Servideo, to the MLB draft. UM returns pitchers Doug Nikhazy and Gunnar Hoglund, both high draft prospects, and hitters Hayden Leatherwood (.361), Tim Elko (.354) and Payton Chatagnier (.311, four homers). The Rebels’ ranking is also a nod to coach Mike Bianco, who was Collegiate Baseball’s 2020 coach of the year. Though some Ole Miss fans might argue that he hasn’t won enough big games, Bianco has certainly won a lot of games. He ranks 16th on the list of winningest active coaches in NCAA Division I, according to a recent Baseball America chart. In 19 seasons in Oxford plus three at McNeese State, Bianco has 867 victories. He has led the Rebels to 767 wins, six Super Regional berths and one College World Series, where they made a serious run at the national title. It’s interesting to note that during Bianco’s tenure at UM, Mississippi State has had six different coaches. … MSU is ninth in CB’s new poll, and Southern Miss is 29th. The Division I season is tentatively set to start on Feb. 19.
Nomination for Understatement of the Year, College Edition: “We swung the bats well today.” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco made that comment today moments after the No. 12 Rebels produced 17 hits and beat nationally ranked Kentucky 18-5 in Lexington. Yes, 17 hits and 18 runs qualifies as swinging the bats well. Auston Bousfield, having an amazing season, went 5-for-6 with a home run, six RBIs and three runs. For the year, the junior from Florida is at .363 with five homers, 34 RBIs and 38 runs. The Rebels got three more homers in today’s win, from Will Allen, J.B. Woodman and Sikes Orvis. Orvis homered for the second straight day and now has 11 bombs for the year. Yes, the Rebels also swung the bats well on Friday, getting 15 hits in a 12-4 victory. They are 32-12, 12-8 SEC, heading into Sunday’s series finale. Chances are they’ll swing the bats well again. P.S. Former Ole Miss star Seth Smith, now with the San Diego Padres, missed a second straight game today because of a groin injury. Smith has been swinging the bat well, so to speak, hitting .313 over his last 10 games before the injury. He’s at .277 for the year. Smith homered in his first at-bat as a Padre back on March 31 but has hit just one since.