Five Ole Miss baseball newcomers to watch in national title defense include son of SEC legend

OXFORD — Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco isn't worried about complacency after winning the 2022 national championship.

His reasoning? Well, almost half of this year's team wasn't here a season ago.

If the Rebels are going to get back to Omaha, they'll need big contributions from a few of those newcomers.

Here are five names to watch when the Rebels open their season with a three-game set against Delaware, beginning Feb. 17.

RHP Grayson Saunier

Bianco said at his preseason media availability that Saunier had as good a fall as any freshman that he can remember. Bianco's been in the game for a long time, and that's certainly the kind of praise that makes Saunier a shoo-in for this list. Listed at 6-foot-4, Saunier was ranked as the No. 126 overall prospect in the Class of 2022 by Perfect Game.

"Not just statistically in the fall, but just stuff-wise," Bianco said. "Sometimes in the fall in the intrasquads, you've gotta weigh that because the stats don't necessarily match up with the ability or just the raw talent that you see. It certainly did with him. He had a terrific fall and he's a guy that we think has put himself in a position to be a possible weekend starter as a true freshman."

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INF Anthony Calarco

Calarco is one of Ole Miss' key transfer portal additions. With one season of eligibility remaining, he left Northwestern on the heels of two outstanding seasons in the Big Ten, posting a .287 batting average and 22 home runs over the 2021 and 2022 campaigns. In 2022, he finished with a 1.050 OPS. Look for him to flourish for the Rebels at first base this spring.

"I think (he'll be) another good addition in the middle of the lineup," Bianco said.

INF Ethan Lege

Lege is an intriguing junior college addition, having spent the last two seasons raking at Delgado Community College in New Orleans after one season at Nicholls State. Lege posted a 1.141 OPS over his two junior-college seasons while batting .411. He was a 16th-round draft choice of the Milwaukee Brewers but opted to come to Ole Miss. Bianco said he played mostly third base for the Rebels during the fall but could play the middle infield positions, as well.

OF Ethan Groff

Groff lit up the American Athletic Conference for Tulane last season to the tune of a .404 batting average and 1.211 OPS. He tallied 15 doubles and scored 59 runs in 41 games while playing right field for the Green Wave. The native of Orlando boasted both the AAC's highest OBP and highest slugging percentage before a thumb injury ended his season. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

"He gives us some depth in the outfield," Bianco said. "A guy that can certainly play center field. We feel that he's a top-of-the-lineup bat. He will bring some speed to the bases that's needed. Just a good addition by our staff."

INF Will Furniss

The second true freshman to crack this list, Furniss is the son of Eddy Furniss, whom Bianco coached while at LSU. Eddy is a College Baseball Hall of Famer and held the SEC career hits record until Jake Mangum broke it in 2019. Will posted a 1.459 OPS during his senior season at Nacogdoches High School in Texas and was named a first-team high school All-American. He gives the Rebels another exciting option at first base.

"He's got that kind of power and that kind of ability I think with the bat," Bianco said, comparing Furniss to his father. "He's certainly going to help us."

David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Five newcomers to watch as Ole Miss baseball begins title defense