Ongoing Evaluations

Fall baseball used to be four weeks. Now it's nearly two months. Coaches are able to get quite a look at their team – against each other.

It isn't playing games against opposing teams, so keeping that in mind doesn't allow you to know exactly what you have. Still fall ball is an excellent opportunity – a more lengthy spring football practice session if you will – to let coaches have information for evaluation throughout the winter.

Some things have been obvious. The Rebels have more depth this time around. Last season that was a real problem for the team. Everywhere you look there is depth, mostly quality depth, at every position.

After another couple of weekends, which wrap things up for fall ball, it will be a little easier to evaluate the whole situation and also to see who consistently stepped up. But some players have done well, if not every time out, then fairly consistently.

Tanner Mathis in the outfield has had a solid fall and is on track for some serious playing time if he keeps that pace up. Last weekend alone he was 5 for 12 with four singles and a home run.

Tanner Mathis

The new pitchers have come in and for the most part done well. There has been some adjustment for them.

To single out one for a recent performance, junior college transfer Austin Wright had nine strikeouts last Friday.

"He was dominant," Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said.

The veterans are getting into the act also. David Goforth has pitched well and added a cutter to his arsenal. Goforth admits it isn't Scott Bittle good, but it has helped him.

"Goforth hasn't given up a run all fall and just looks super," Bianco said.

Last Friday in four innings he allowed three hits with four strikeouts but no damage.

Newcomers R.J. Hively and Bobby Wahl have for the most part been effective. Matt Tracy had seven strikeouts last Friday, allowing a couple of runs. Matt Crouse pitched four innings in an intrasquad last weekend and didn't give up any runs.

"The difference in this year and last year in the fall is the pitchers are in much better command, throwing more balls into the strike zone," Bianco said.

"It looks like we pitch pretty well, but we still end up scoring some runs. What the offense has done, and it's been the combination of a lot of people, is we've been able to put an inning together. There will be some innings where the pitchers will start cruising, but we'll get a runner on and we'll bunt or do whatever is needed to get the run across. They've done a pretty good job with that."

Matt Smith

Bianco feels good overall about his pitching staff.

"We're excited. You want some of the guys who have been here before, like Goforth and Tracy, to pitch well. And they have. Some of the older pitchers have stepped up and done well. Jake Morgan is healthy. Some of the new guys have done well."

And other areas of concern, like replacing Kevin Mort at short, seem to be rounding into shape with some depth.

"The shortstops have all done well. They've caught the balls and made plays," he said of players like newcomers Blake Newalu, Austin Anderson and Gabe Woods who have commanded a lot of time at the position but also Alex Yarbrough who has spent some time at short but mainly at second. Freshman Preston Overbey has been at third for the most part.

"That's been the case pretty much throughout the infield. Defensively, it's a lot of innings out there since everybody is actually on the same team. And we've been pretty good."

Matt Smith, after early in the fall sitting on the sidelines with what turned out to be an asthma problem as opposed to an irregular heart situation, has come on strong as the sessions have continued.

"He's been terrific," Bianco said. For example in one game last weekend, the veteran and leader was 2 for 4 with two singles but also reached on an error and a hit by pitch. Getting on base that often will help a team score runs.

"Will Allen has been a force offensively," Bianco said of the freshman catcher who has DH'ed as well. "Tracy has swung it really well. Mathis is having a tremendous fall. (Juco newcomer) Zach Kirksey has been up and down, but he's had some good days and he's shown some power. Jordan Poole has swung it well lately. He got off to a cold start but looks really good now."

Four intrasquads are scheduled today through Sunday. Then two or three more next week wrap up the fall session.

The evaluations continue.

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