baseball

Notes: Parkinson ready for opening day responsibility

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David Parkinson will start Ole Miss' season at 4 p.m. on Friday.

OXFORD | David Parkinson was a salve for the Rebels last season.

With the starting rotation after Brady Bramlett struggling with consistency, head coach Mike Bianco inserted the transfer into the Saturday role, and he blossomed despite a mindset that he admits caused trouble at times.

Instead of going pitch-by-pitch, Parkinson's strategy focused on staying in the game and looking too big picture. He still performed well, earning his first win in his first career start against Arkansas and posting the lowest ERA among Ole Miss starters at 2.65. He stayed in that role the final nine weeks of the season.

But when Parkinson gets the ball on Friday to start Ole Miss' season against No. 10 East Carolina at 4 p.m., he will feel more confident and ready after an offseason of tweaks to improve his mindset.

"I think that's one of the big things I changed this year," Parkinson said. "I didn't realize it at the time, but I was trying to focus on getting to the fifth or sixth and not focusing on the present moment. That's one thing the coaches helped me out. It's been a big help.

"More focusing on this pitch. Less worrying about the outcome or the results."

Parkinson is the only left-hander on the roster with game experience, but Bianco didn't factor that into his role. Instead, he built the pitching staff from front to back, giving Parkinson the ball on opening day because the Rebels' best option.

"To be honest with you, David's just pitched the best out of all of them," Bianco said.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder struck out 50 and walked 24 in 68 innings last season. He'll oppose East Carolina left-hander Evan Krukzynski, who finished 8-1 with a 2.01 ERA in 2016. The senior had 95 strikeouts and 27 walks in 116.2 innings.

The Pirates went 38-23-1 last season, losing to Texas Tech in game three of the Lubbock Super Regional.

Parkinson doesn't feel extra pressure as the staff ace, but he does gain some confidence from Bianco's belief in him to execute on the big stage.

"From a responsibility standpoint it (means something) on that alone," Parkinson said. "I feel like Coach B has the trust in me to do what I need to do, so that feels good."

REBELS MUST REPLACE SOME PRODUCTION FROM LAST SEASON

Ole Miss may start as many as five newcomers in the batting order on Friday against the Pirates, and the Rebels' No. 1 recruiting class should be on full display.

However, as talented as the group is, there are some question marks because of the lack of experience. Ole Miss doesn't have three top two or three of the top five hitters from last season still on the roster, and also gone are the saves leader and starting pitcher wins leader from last year's 43-win team.

Check out the chart below, as we look at returning production in key categories. Considering the newcomers expected to play key roles, the Rebels bring back more than half of their 2016 production in all but two key categories.

Ole Miss' returning production in key categories
STAT TOTAL LOST RETURNING %

Hits

580

266

54

Runs

382

181

53

Total Bases

844

411

51

Home Runs

46

26

43

Stolen Bases

51

36

29

Innings Pitched

545.2

191.1

65

Wins

43

14

67

Pitching Strikeouts

497

197

60

Pitching Walks

206

71

66

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