The University of Mississippi baseball program has been successful since it started in 1893.
The Rebels have competed in the NCAA Tournament 19 times, won seven SEC championships, captured two league tournament titles and went to the College World Series five times, including in 2014. This spring, Ole Miss is looking to finish with its 17th consecutive winning season.
In nine months, Granite City senior center fielder D.J. Miller will be part of the Ole Miss baseball program. And he can’t wait.
“I’m excited,” Miller said.
Miller signed a letter of intent to play for the Ole Miss baseball program in February. He said he’s glad to get his college plans out of the way.
“I felt like it was a monkey off of my back,” Miller said. “I can just focus on my senior year and do the best I can now. I don’t have to worry about, ‘Is there a scout in the stands watching me so I can go to school?’ and something like that.”
But first, Miller has to concentrate on finishing his high school baseball career on a high note. So far this spring, Miller was the Warriors’ top hitter with a .438 batting average entering this week. He also had five doubles, four triples, a home run and had scored 29 runs at the beginning of the week.
“I feel like I’m just confident at the plate,” said Miller, who also played with the Granite City boys’ basketball team this winter. “These last few games, I’ve kind of been struggling. I wasn’t trying to do too much. I was just trying to hit the ball hard and see where it goes. I’m not trying to go up there and hit a home run every time. I was trying to get on base and score a run for us.”
Last year, Ole Miss played in the College World Series for the first time since 1972. The Rebels also played in the CWS in 1956, 1964 and 1969.
Miller said one of his goals at Ole Miss is to get a chance to play in Omaha.
“I wanted to go play big time, like the College World Series and stuff like that,” Miller said.
While Ole Miss was playing at the College World Series, Miller was playing for the St. Louis Pirates select baseball team and had no college plans.
But in July, things changed.
“Nobody was really talking to me at the time about going to play baseball at any school or anything. Then, we were playing in a tournament in Florida and it was in July, I’m pretty sure,” Miller said. “My assistant coach (for the St. Louis Pirates) Brett Huber played at Ole Miss and he was telling me that the coach was interested in me and he wanted to come out and watch me.”
Miller got an offer to play for Ole Miss after playing three games in one day at the Florida tournament.
“I said I had to talk it over with my parents,” Miller said. “I was talking to them about it and they said if you want to do it, you can do it. But I also had another offer from Alabama at the time, too, at that same night. Both schools called me. I liked Ole Miss a whole lot. I don’t know why. I felt it was right, so I decided to take the offer from Ole Miss.”
Miller has made two visits to Ole Miss. He plans to make another one this summer.
“They want me to come down for summer school and train for about a month with them,” said Miller, who plans to major in forensic science. “I’m going down there on June 29 and I’ll be back at the end of July.”
Miller has been playing with the Granite City baseball program since his freshman year. He started with the varsity as a sophomore after playing with the freshman team the year before.
“That was a huge jump right there,” Miller said.
The next year, Miller blossomed into one of the Warriors’ top hitters. He batted .389 and earned second-team all-Southwestern Conference honors the next year.
Miller hopes the Warriors will get hot as their regular season comes down to its final weeks. Granite City owned an 8-19 record entering Tuesday’s Southwestern Conference game against Edwardsville at Babe Champion Field. The Warriors then have a road game against Collinsville on Thursday. The Warriors have five regular season games remaining and will play host the Class 4A regional tournament.
“I’ve got confidence in them,” Miller said. “I think we can turn it around.”