Oak Grove High School hosted its first annual First Pitch Extravaganza Thursday night. The event was held at the Hattiesburg Country Club where parents, players, current coaches, and past coaches and players came out to support the school as they looked to fund raise for new baseball equipment and tools.
Former alumni such as Donnie Bridges who was drafted in the first round by the Montreal Expos were in attendance, along with the legendary, long-time head coach Harry Breland.
Also in attendance was Ole Miss head baseball head coach Mike Bianco. Bianco, who is entering his 20th season as head coach at Ole Miss is the winningest coach in the program’s storied history. Under Bianco, Ole Miss won the SEC West crown in 2018, becoming just the second team in program history to win both a divisional and tournament title in the same season. The Rebels have finished .500 or above in 15 of Bianco’s 19 seasons.
Bianco spoke to Sports601/The Impact about what it means to be able to attend the First Pitch Extravaganza.
“I always try to get to a couple of events like this every season. Obviously, with Oak Grove and the talent, they’ve had and the players from here come through Ole Miss over the years it meshed. It’s a chance to come out and support baseball programs and support a really good program here. It is a good opportunity to help them get their season kicked off right,” said Bianco.
The most recent talent to get national attention from Oak Grove while at Ole Miss has been John Rhys Plumlee who made a national name for himself with his exceptional play on the gridiron, but Bianco is equally optimistic about his coming play on the diamond.
“Just being around him the past few days since we officially got together on the 15th, you know you hear all about the kid’s character, his charisma, and leadership, but you see that he drips of all of that in person. His athleticism is what everyone sees on television as a quarterback, but you see that same thing on the baseball field. He has such a great skill set and can run,” said Bianco, “ watching him offensively he has a good swing, and we are hoping that he is going to be able to help us this season. I don’t know if people realize how difficult it is to play just one sport at our level. Both he and Ealy, had great freshman years on the football field so we hope that translates to us in the spring.”
Bianco also talked about Ole Miss’ highly ranked recruiting class which came in at number two overall and how Mississippi talent was an integral part of that as well as nation-wide talent.
“One of the things we’ve always taken pride in has been to recruit the state well. We are the flagship university and you have to recruit kids inside your state. We also realize to be successful, we have to look outside the state too. I think this is a good mix of both, and it is a big class. We have been ranked as high as second in the country, and there is no doubt that there will have to be some guys from this class that we expect to contribute.”
Oak Grove will start play on the diamond in just under one month.