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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | May 8, 2019

Ole Miss baseball: We picked an all-time starting lineup of Mississippi greats

The road to Omaha starts now

Let's take a look at Mississippi baseball's all-time starting nine in this edition of the NCAA.com series of the best possible starting lineups for some of college baseball’s most successful programs.

Here is how we picked the team: We dug deep in the record books, only considering the players' college career and accolades. Their achievements in professional baseball did not come into play. There was also consideration given to their positional fits and how well they fit into a batting order we made based on historical stats that could provide a combination of high batting averages, speed, and power.

CWS HISTORY: Coaches with most wins | Most titles | Most appearances | Conferences most represented

Ole Miss has a long history of great baseball players. It's interesting how many seem to remain in the SEC fold, returning to Oxford in one form, whether it be as a coach or analyst. The Rebels are deep in several positions, making this a tough task, but one we looked forward to doing.

Don Kessinger, shortstop (1962-64)

This was a tougher position to pick than you may expect. Jimmy Yawn had an All-American career with Ole Miss, and Zack Cozart put up some nice numbers as well. But Kessinger cannot be denied a spot in this lineup. He closed out his playing career in Oxford with an All-American campaign in 1964. He hit .436 that season, which is still the all-time single-season mark for Ole Miss. He finished his career with a .400 batting average (also tops in Ole Miss history) and 44 stolen bases, which is tenth in program history. Kessinger returned to his alma mater to coach from 1991-96, making him one of the most beloved Rebels in history.

Jake Gibbs, third base (1959-61)

Gibbs made the most of his three years with the Rebels, taking home All-American honors twice. He had a huge 1960 season in which he hit .424 with 15 extra base hits, a .657 slugging percentage, and 20 stolen bases. Gibbs was as important with the bat as he was with the glove, making him one of the easier selections on the list. Like Kessinger, Gibbs returned to Ole Miss as a coach and racked up 485 career wins, second-most in program history.

ALL-TIME NINES, SEC: LSU | South Carolina | Vanderbilt | Mississippi State | Florida

David Dellucci, outfield (1992-95)

Speaking of easy picks, let’s welcome Dellucci to the heart of the lineup. The outfielder blended all the tools into one of the more solid tenures in Oxford. He finished his career tied for tenth in program history with hits (247), tied for seventh in home runs (36), fourth in runs (182), and second in stolen bases (72), all while batting .326. Dellucci brought home All-American honors in 1995 before embarking on a 13-year major league career. Anyone considered an SEC legend earns a spot in any all-time lineup.

Stephen Head, first base/utility (2003-05)

Ole Miss Athletics Stephen Head was a two-way star for Ole Miss.

The beauty of having Head in the cleanup spot is we’ll also stick him in the back of the bullpen. His 13 saves in 2003 are still the Ole Miss single-season best and his 26 career saves rank second in its history. But we want him in this lineup. Head finished his career with a .338 average and hit 37 home runs with 165 RBI, both top 10 Rebels’ marks. He followed up his 2003 SEC freshman of the year campaign with the 2004 SEC player of the year honors. Kyle Gordon, the program’s all-time home run leader and Ole Miss Hall of Famer, certainly deserves his due, but the versatility of Head gets him the start.

ALL-TIME NINES, ACC: Miami | Florida State | Georgia Tech | Clemson | North Carolina | Virginia

Stuart Turner, catcher (2013)

Someone like All-American Will Allen, who played a solid four years for Ole Miss, probably deserves this spot, but Turner’s one year with the Rebels was unmatched in Ole Miss lore. He was the winner of the 2013 Johnny Bench Award as well as a First-Team All American. His .374 batting average ranks in the top 10 and with a nod on the 2013 All-SEC First Team, his lone year is one of the most decorated in program history.

Brad Henderson, second base (1996-99)

This selection may not be well received but hear us out. Alex Yarbrough was highly considered, and his 2012 consensus All-American season is worthy of the lineup. But remember, we are looking at historical stats, and Henderson’s name is all over the record book. Henderson is first all-time in program history in hits (298) and runs scored (198) while finishing in the top 10 in average (.371), home runs (40), and RBI (160). This could go either way, but we’re giving Henderson the edge based on his all-time stats.

ALL-TIME NINES, WILD WEST: Arizona StateCal State Fullerton | Long Beach State | ArizonaStanford | USC | UCLA

Paul Husband, outfield (1970-73)

Husband closed out his career with Ole Miss in memorable fashion, posting back-to-back ABCA First-Team All-American honors in 1972 and 73, one of just three Rebels to earn consecutive All-American honors. He finished out his career with a .334 average, 18 doubles, 21 home runs, and 93 career RBI in 132 career games.

J.B. Woodman, outfield (2014-16)

This final spot came down to Seth Smith and Woodman. Smith is certainly deserving, becoming the first SEC freshman of the year in program history in 2002. But Woodman had a fine career as well, earning All-American honors in 2016. That was his best year on campus, hitting .323 with 14 home runs, but here’s the stat we loved most. He was third in college baseball with nine outfield assists in 2016 and seven of those were at home plate. Woodman was as important producing runs as he was saving them.

MORE ALL-TIME NINES: Michigan StateOklahoma State | Texas | Rice

Drew Pomeranz, starting pitcher (2008-10)

Starting pitcher is the hardest selection. There were several candidates that deserve mention here. Lance Lynn would likely make this fictional weekend rotation, finishing his career in the top 10 in wins and strikeouts in the Ole Miss record books. Jamey Price was a tough pitcher to face, ending his career with 21 wins, a 2.22 ERA and 189 strikeouts. You can’t overlook Bobby Wahl’s end to his career, going undefeated in an All-American campaign, and even Ryan Rolison left the program most recently putting up some impressive numbers.

But we’re going Pomeranz. The numbers are there, as he finished his career with 21 wins, a 3.16 ERA, and the most strikeouts in Ole Miss history with 344. But Pomeranz is the only Rebel to earn SEC pitcher of the year honors, and that puts him in some pretty nice company. Pomeranz went 9-2 in that 2010 award-winning season, striking out 139 batters and picking up multiple First-Team All-American honors as well.

Mike Bianco, head coach (2001-present)

Ole Miss Athletics Mike Bianco is one of SEC baseball's all-time winningest coaches.

What a list to choose from. Gibbs, Tom Swayze, even the mighty Casey Stengel himself made a brief cameo in Oxford for a season. But we're picking the Rebels current skipper. Now in his 19th season, Bianco has led Ole Miss to the NCAA tournament 15 times in becoming the winningest coach in program history. His teams have never had a season with fewer than 30 wins (already with 32 in 2019) as he's risen to the top five in SEC's history of winningest coaches. 

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June 15-26, 2019
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