The Ole Miss baseball team returns to the field this weekend for a series against No. 1 Louisville, and with the infield shuffled from last year, the Rebels will need to see immediate production from a few veterans.
Tyler Keenan is certainly the most notable of the Rebel infielders heading into 2020 after batting .285 and accounting for 15 home runs last season. He also had a .959 fielding percentage at third base and is now one of the few veterans in this Ole Miss lineup.
Keenan was named a preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball and D1Baseball, and he also earned a spot on the preseason All-SEC second team.
The Rebels have moved Anthony Servideo to shortstop, his primary position, to replace Grae
Kessinger, who was drafted by the Houston Astros last summer. Servideo was named 2018 Freshman All-SEC two years ago, batted .287 at the plate and spent most of his time in the outfield or at second base last year.
Though at a new position, Servideo has been the heir-apparent to Kessinger at shortstop since his signing and should be able to transition smoothly into the role.
“I’ve been playing (shortstop) my whole life,” Servideo said. “(After) finally getting the chance to be back there, I feel good. I’m confident and excited.”
Though not the full-time starter a season ago, first baseman Kevin Graham is a name that will be familiar to Rebel fans. Graham started in 38 games last season, 20 at first base and 18 as a designated hitter, splitting time with Cole Zabowski. His 2019 season at the plate saw him bat .250 with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs.
However, junior Tim Elko has filled that role at first base with Graham moving to the outfield. Outside of Keenan, Elko and Servideo, the remainder of the Rebel infield will be flush with newcomers this season. Here is a list of players who are either new to the team or didn’t see consistent action last season and could have playing time in the infield this season:
No. 1 Peyton Chatagnier — Freshman
No. 2 Connor Walsh — Freshman
No. 4 Knox Loposer — Sophomore
No. 8 Justin Bench — Sophomore
No. 13 Hayden Dunhurst — Freshman
No. 14 Trey Lafleur — Freshman
No. 19 Cael Baker — Junior (JUCO)
No. 32 Cam Fisher — Freshman
No. 33 Ben Van Cleve — Junior (JUCO)
The catcher position will likely come down to Loposer and freshman Hayden Dunhurst. Loposer had limited playing time last season, and Dunhurst played his high school baseball at Pearl River Central High School, where he was tagged as the No. 1 catcher in the nation in his recruiting class.
Loposer only played in 29 games, batting .213 with one home run, but he and Dunhurst will likely see action early in the season.
Second base seems to be somewhat open as well, but Justin Bench and Peyton Chatagnier are believed to be the leaders for the position. Bench suited up in 14 games a season ago, batting .200 and accumulating four RBIs. Chatagnier was a member of the Rebels’ No. 2-ranked recruiting class and hit .405 as a senior at Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas.
Though these names may be the frontrunners for their respective positions, don’t be surprised if more of the youngsters on this year’s team see significant playing time as roles are established before conference play starts in this grueling Rebel schedule.