Former New Hope High School standout Will Golsan knew he had a chance to be part of something special.
Golsan was part of the Ole Miss baseball signing class in 2014 when the Rebels advanced to the semifinal round of the College World Series.
Now, Golsan will be in uniform tonight when top-seeded Ole Miss (43-17) begins its latest quest for Omaha, facing off against fourth-seeded Utah (25-27) at 7 p.m. in an opening-round game of the Oxford Regional at Oxford-University Stadium.
“We are excited to have this opportunity,” Golsan said. “It’s another opportunity to showcase our field and play in front of our fans. We know we have three really good opponents in the tournament but I feel like we are playing well now and we are ready for it.”
Second-seeded Tulane (39-19) plays third-seeded Boston College (31-20) at 3 p.m. Friday. The winner of the four-team, double-elimination regional will face the winner of the Coral Gables Regional (hosted by the University of Miami) in a super regional for a right to go to Omaha.
Ole Miss will host a regional for the seventh time under Mike Bianco. The Rebels made sure their postseason destination was at home by winning four of the final five Southeastern Conference regular-season series. Once as high as No. 2 nationally after a school-record 20-2 start, Ole Miss enters regional play a consensus Top 10 team by all six national polls.
“We had a little bump in the road (early in conference play) and we had to figure some things out,” Golsan said. “Once we got over that hump, we were okay. We have been consistent over the last six weeks or so. We were struggling for a little while but that is what happens in SEC. You can’t get too high or too low. Everybody is out to beat you and each team has players capable of beating you. You just have to stay in the process. Each day you have to focus on ways you can get better as an individual player and as a team.”
During series losses to South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi State, Ole Miss struggled to score runs. As the temperatures have warmed, so have the bats.
Junior catcher Henri Lartigue is hitting a team-best .362. Junior outfielder J.B. Woodman has hit a team-best 14 home runs. Sophomore Tate Blackman is another everyday player hitting .300 or better. Golsan enters regional play at .274, with 61 base hits, 11 doubles, two triples and three home runs.
“We have had some guys with exceptional seasons,” Golsan said. “The thing with them is consistency. We have done a better job of taking advantage of our scoring opportunities later in the season. That involves a team growing and coming together.”
Last season, Ole Miss finished 30-28. The postseason was short-lived with a pair of losses in the Los Angeles Regional, hosted by UCLA. Golsan drew 45 starts, with 32 at second base, nine at third base and four at designated hitter. During the offseason, he was moved to first base.
“Will has such a great knack for the game of baseball,” Bianco said. “He will take on any challenge. He just works hard at being the best. He is a team first guy and he is really driven. That is what really separates this team this season. We have a lot of driven guys.”
Golsan said he was excited about the opportunity to learn a new position. His comfort level at first base has risen throughout the season.
“I have gotten comfortable there,” Golsan said. “The biggest challenge was learning how to move my feet the proper way. I feel like I have improved a lot throughout the season as I have gotten more comfortable at the position.”
With two seasons and 104 starts now under his belt, Golsan has become a seasoned veteran. After getting into a rhythm in both the classroom and on the field, Golsan admits he has learned a lot but yet there is so much more to learn.
“Anybody can beat you on any given day, that is the biggest thing I have learned,” Golsan said. “You have to come out and play your best baseball every day. If you don’t raise you level of performance, someone is going to have a better game than you. You just have to keep your emotions in check. You can’t get too high or too low. When you sweep an opponent, it is a great feeling but you can’t get over confident. If you lose a series or get swept, you have to realize there are so many m ore games to be played so you have to keep going.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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