Ole Miss held its first full team practice in preparation for the 2019 baseball season on Friday.We will have position previews beginning next week on SuperTalk’s website, but for now, here are some notes from the first day of practice.
Servideo at second base and outfield:
Sophomore Anthony Servideo is taking reps at both second base and outfield as he is in a bit of a position battle with Jacob Adams, who saw the majority of the time at second base last season after the two platooned early in the year. Servideo got 12 starts at second base and three at shortstop as a freshman. A few of the starts at second base came later in the year and he was able to draw on some of that heading into the summer and fall.
“It helped me a lot with getting comfortable,” Serivdeo said. “Early in the year last year, I was trying to do way too much. This summer really helped me. I gained my confidence back and playing every day was nice.”
Servideo is an athletic kid with great speed and range. He is one of the better defenders on the team and will find a significant role somewhere because of it. Adams probably offers a little more at the plate and is steady glove in his own right in terms of fielding the position. Despite competing with Adams for time at second base, the two help one another and share information on the minutiae of playing the position.
Servideo hasn’t played outfield in game action since he was about 10 years old, but tracking fly balls doesn’t feel foreign to him.
“It feels really comfortable,” Servideo said. “Out there it is difference because I am not thinking as much. I am just having fun catching some balls.”
Coming off productive offensive fall, Elko looking for a place in the field:
Ole Miss returns seven of its eight starters in the field from a team that won 48 games a season ago, the SEC West and SEC Tournament title. One of the issues it will face this season — and it is a good problem to have — is finding a place for all of its bats. The Rebels have good depth and a lot of hitters that are capable of contributing. One of them being Tim Elko, who had one of the best fall seasons on the team from an offensive standpoint.
“I was just trying to relax,” Elko said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself freshman year. This fall, I decided to go out and play how I play, and that is what I did.”
Elko hit .405 in the fall with 16 hits and a trio of home runs. Now that he’s seen SEC level pitching — which usually requires an adjustment period from high school because of an uptick in velocity and more consistent secondary stuff — Elko is gaining more confidence at the plate. So, how will Mike Bianco find at bats for Elko and other capable hitters?
“You want to figure out who your best nine are, and right now, that’s really hard,” Bianco said. “I’ve been a part of three national championships, and I don’t remember a year where we said ‘we have too many players, we’re just too good.’ You figure out a way. Last year, we played really well offensively and moved some guys around. I think when you are having success it is a lot easier. Usually, when you are having success everyone is playing well and willing to contribute in any way that they can.”
Thomas Dillard catching:
A catcher in high school, Thomas Dillard has gotten reps behind the plate each summer and fall he’s been at Ole Miss despite being an outfielder during the season. He could very well see game action as a catcher this season with the departure of Nick Fortes. Cooper Johnson will likely be the team’s primary catcher, but he surely isn’t going to catch every inning of the season. With freshman catcher Knox Loposer currently unavailable with a foot injury, Dillard’s services behind the plate could be required more frequently.
“In the fall, he caught a lot.” Bianco said. “We put him in the outfield some, but with Knox coming off the foot injury and not able to catch yet, there’s been more innings has been back there for Thomas.”