Ole Miss outfielder Ryan Olenek set to return against Texas A&M

Published 6:44 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2017

 Ryan Olenek doesn’t remember much about the play.

The collision with shortstop Grae Kessinger in last week’s 5-3 win over Louisiana-Monroe gave Ole Miss’ center fielder a concussion that resulted in him missing the Rebels’ series at Florida over the weekend. Olenek was taken out of the game after an at-bat the next half inning, a trip to the plate that’s just as hazy.

“I remember sitting in the dugout. I don’t really remember that at-bat,” Olenek said. “I just remember sitting in the dugout saying, ‘I don’t feel right.’ Then I went and threw up in the trash can.”

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A week later, Olenek is good to go.

After staying back in Oxford last weekend to continue going through concussion protocol, Olenek has been cleared to return to the lineup when the Rebels host No. 19 Texas A&M (34-15, 14-10 Southeastern Conference) in Friday’s 6:30 p.m. series opener at Swayze Field. Olenek was a full participant in practice Wednesday.

“He’s done the conditioning and the tests. He’s feeling a lot better,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “Worked out in the weight room I know yesterday.”

Olenek said it was “really tough” to watch his teammates from a distance as the Rebels (29-20, 11-13) were swept by the fifth-ranked Gators, the second time this season Ole Miss has come up empty in SEC play. The Rebels’ regular cleanup hitter, Olenek is batting .261 with a team-high 15 doubles, 21 RBIs and eight stolen bases.

Olenek has also committed just one error, but it’s more than the statistics that Bianco feels like the Rebels are getting back in center field.

“He’s one of those guys where fans love him because they love his energy,” Bianco said. “It’s like why a lot of fans liked Errol Robinson. They kind of play with their emotions on their sleeves. They play hard, and they lay it on the line every game.”

Olenek is back at an important time for the Rebels, who have work to do for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth. Baseball America projects Ole Miss, which has an RPI of 35, as one of the first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament field heading into the last two regular-season series.

“We’re just trying to focus on what we can control,” Olenek said. “Just got to focus on the first game against Texas A&M and then roll from there.”

Bortles held out

Senior third baseman Colby Bortles did not practice Wednesday after tweaking his lower back earlier in the week. Bianco said Bortles’ status is day to day.

Bortles was seen walking around in the dugout before practice.

“We’re not sure exactly what it is,” Bianco said. “He saw a doctor last night, and they’re treating it as a muscle. The best thing is to keep him out because obviously when it’s your lower back, just about everything that you do, from hitting to defense, you engage it. The best thing is to rest it.”

Bortles is hitting. 283 and leads the Rebels in home runs (9) and RBIs (39). Kyle Watson and Olenek have also played third at times this season.