From The Mound

There are a host of pitchers, many of them newcomers, vying for starting spots on this year's Rebel baseball team. Two of them talk about their starts.

R.J. Hively and Bobby Wahl are at opposite ends of the spectrum in college experience and locale. Hively started his college career in the Cal-State Fullerton program as a freshman. He arrived at Ole Miss from junior college at Santa Ana, Calif. Wahl is a true freshman from Springfield, Va., who is finding out about life at a higher level of baseball.

They also could hardly have been farther apart growing up, one being from the west coast and one from the east coast.

Hively pitched on Scout Day, as did all draft-eligible pitchers. No stats were kept, and pitchers only faced five batters.

"It went alright," the 6-foot-1, 215-pound right-hander said. "Not exactly the way I wanted it to. I was a little wild. But not facing hitters for three months, it wasn't too bad. Just some mechanical adjustments and I'll be alright."

Hively said the order of the day was all set, and the pitchers just followed through with them.

"Everyone that is draft-eligible faced five hitters, and we just rotated through," he said. "Walk, hit better, base hit, whatever, as soon as your five hitters were up, you were off the mound."

But that was only a small snapshot of what Hively has seen since he has been at Ole Miss. Drafted in the 26th round by the Yankees this summer, he was here since July and decided on Ole Miss rather than professional ball at this time. He has some experience to draw on already. He likes what he's been a part of so far at Ole Miss.

"One thing I saw at Fullerton, a lot of the freshmen there were scared to get on the mound and be themselves around others," Hively said. "Here, we have a very good core personality as a team and as a group. It makes it a lot easier, especially coming in and being 3,000 miles away in a whole new culture, to fit in with different people.

"I'm sure for freshmen it's a lot easier coming in and knowing that everyone is your friend. And while you're competing against each other, they're here to help you and make the team better. The team definitely comes first here, and that's different than what I'm used to. It's definitely a good change. We've been together four weeks now, and if you saw us around the locker room and our personality on the field, it's like we've been together three or four years."

Hively said he continues to work on several aspects of his game to improve.

"My command and my mechanics," he said. "I tend to leak out the lower half of my arm and it starts to drag. So it's harder for my command to be good. I've been doing a real good job in the bullpen with it. In game situations, I tend to get a little excited and try to do a little too much. I let things leak out. It's just something that with more repetition you can fix."

Hively knows there is a lot of competition for starting roles and relieving roles on this year's Ole Miss team, from Friday night starter to weekday reliever. But he isn't worrying about all that and is drawing on his age, maturity, and experience.

"One thing I did learn at Fullerton is not to get caught up in that," Hively said. "Just do your own thing, and if you get outs and you're productive on the mound, you're going to throw. If you can keep things simple and focus on what you need to do on the mound and how you pitch, then everything else will take care of itself."

Bobby Wahl

Wahl, as did all the freshmen pitchers, made his first appearance Sunday. He felt good about it but was battling the elements a bit.

"It's great being out here," the 6-3, 190, right-hander said. "It's real hot, a lot hotter than Virginia, I'll tell you that. I felt pretty good coming out here. I was throwing strikes today and pounding the zone. That's what I wanted to do, throw strikes and attack and have the hitters hit it."

Stats were kept on Sunday, and Wahl pitched two innings, facing eight batters. An unearned run scored during his time on the mound, and he allowed two hits, had three strikeouts and a walk for his first appearance as a Rebel.

Wahl, drafted in the 39th round this summer by the Indians, said he's already learned you have to focus on every batter and every pitch.

"These guys are top of the line hitters," he said. "It's every pitch. You've got to bear down and you've got to pitch. It's not like you can take off a couple of guys. In high school maybe, but not here. Every guy here, you've got to locate and hit your spot and make the pitch. It's a lot different."

There are other differences, and he's found them out as well, like strength and conditioning.

"The weight room's a lot different," Wahl said comparing high school to Division I baseball. "We get after it every day we're in there, working hard and getting better one day at a time. It's a grind, that's for sure. Your legs are real tired."

But he knows in the long run it's worth it. He hopes what he's doing on the mound and off will lead him into a role that can best help his team.

"Just keep coming out here and throwing strikes," Wahl said. "Hopefully Coach (Bianco) appreciates what I do, and we'll see what happens. I'm a freshman coming in and working hard for a spot. Whatever happens, happens. Everything happens for a reason."

So he presses on and continues to work to improve in every area.

"I'm not really adding much now," he said. "I'm coming over my head a little bit now. It's more of a rhythm thing for me. Helps me keep a rhythm, and that's pretty much it. Fast ball, slider, changeup are my three main pitches, and I'm just attacking the zone with it."

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