It’s been a whirlwind week for former Newton County Academy standout Kemp Alderman.
In just a week’s time, Alderman went from being a redshirt to the toast of Oxford.
On Tuesday, Alderman started in left field for Ole Miss in a win over Arkansas-Little Rock. Alderman went 1-for-4 in the game, getting his first collegiate hit.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco explained to the media why the Rebels burned Alderman’s redshirt at this point in the season. The Rebels are currently 28-12 on the season and have 15 games left in the regular season.
“It’s one of those things that we have contemplated for weeks,” Bianco said on Wednesday. “He has been traveling with us and has been with us and been eligible to play in every SEC weekend. In the scrimmages, he has been outstanding and has made some adjustments at the plate. His batting practices have been unbelievable. If you were just a guy coming and didn’t know anything about us, you would think he would be hitting in the middle of our lineup. The last couple of weeks, we have been contemplating it. When Tim went down, we got closer to doing it. We were coming to a point to where we were either going to do it or not so we decided to go ahead and do it. We thought about doing it this past weekend (against Mississippi State) but it probably wasn’t fair to run him out there for his first college at-bat in front of 13,000 fans in the stands.”
After getting his first start, the Rebels then hosted LSU for a three-game series. Alderman pinch hit in both games, which LSU won. Then came Saturday. The Rebels were down 9-1 and Bianco inserted Alderman in the lineup.
“We were down 9-1 so that’s how he got into the game,” Bianco said. “Leatherwood was really struggling so we said we would run Kemp out there and let him get some at-bats. Little did we know that he would be batting in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied.”
After the Rebels scored eight in the eighth inning to tie the game, Alderman was leading off the bottom of the ninth.
“First of all, I have known Kemp for a really long time, since he was 12 years old,” Bianco said. “He played travel ball with my son, Sam. I know Kemp and I know his family. I know him better than I have known any recruit in the history of the program. So one, it was a special moment with a kid you have watched since he was 12 years old to have a moment like that was really cool.”
But Bianco wasn’t thinking about Alderman going deep for his first collegiate home run to give the Rebels a 10-9 walk-off win after struggling for the majority of the weekend.
“We have Kemp leading off and we had (Ben) Van Cleve behind him,” Bianco said. “We don’t bunt a lot but Van Cleve is our best bunter. I told Van Cleve that if he gets to second, we are going to bunt him and we have Plumlee to run. I told them this is how we are going to do it. Plumlee is a football guy so I’m talking to him about what we are going to do and I hear the crack of the bat. So I didn’t really see it so I’m really anxious to see it on social media.”
For Alderman, it was a dream come true.
“I’ve always been an Ole Miss fan all of my life and this is what I dreamed of,” Alderman said. “In the last inning, I was in right and I just said to myself this is what I have been waiting for my whole life, just go up there and try not to do too much and have some fun and it paid off.”
Alderman’s weekend success actually goes back to earlier in the season when the 6-foot-3 freshman found out he was being redshirted.
“When I got redshirted, it put a fire under me to keep on working harder,” Alderman said. “I have been doing everything with the team that they have been doing. I’ve been working on my swing with Coach Clem. My dad told me to just be ready if the time came this year. If it didn’t happen this year, just to work hard and be ready for next year. I got the time and I’m just thankful for it. I had a little hitch in my swing and I’ve been working on that, keeping my hands back, that’s really it. It was a fastball middle away. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone. I kind of blacked out after that. It was a crazy feeling; one I will never forget.”
Bianco said once Alderman corrected the hitch in his swing, he’s been impressive in scrimmages and batting practice and started pushing for playing time.
“As he was working with Coach Clem, they noticed a little hitch in his hands which made him a little bit late on the fastball and a little bit early on the breaking ball,” Bianco said. “He was just in-between both pitches and got his arm a little straighter. It’s a little unorthodox but it’s really worked for him. In the hitter versus pitchers scrimmages, he has been lights out. He’s been lights out in the batting practices, more consistent. He has been lights out in the full scrimmages so he has earned his spot.”
The home run didn’t come as much of a surprise to Bianco, who has seen Alderman’s power for years.
“We have seen in the fall that he has freakish power,” Bianco said. “We have never had somebody in the program hit the ball as hard and hit it that consistently hard, day in and day out, with the exit velocity that Kemp does. It’s just amazing. He had a rough fall like a lot of freshman do and when we got to the spring, we figured he wasn’t going to get on the field.”