Leaders of the Fall

Fall baseball practice has officially wrapped up, except for the current best two of three games in the fall World Series for the Rebels.

It's all about the players this week as they even coach the teams. Matt Smith is heading up one team, while David Goforth is in charge of the other.

Official fall stats are already in the books, however, and a couple of players stood out – one pitcher and one position player. Matt Crouse was statistically the best pitcher this fall, while Tanner Mathis was the best hitter.

Both are in their second year with the program. Crouse is a left-handed pitcher who transferred in from junior college for his sophomore season last school year. Mathis is a sophomore who played extensively as a freshman.

Both hope to help out even more this season, and their falls indicate they probably will.

"I've had a pretty good fall," said Crouse, who finished with a stellar 0.95 ERA in 19 innings pitched. "Being able to throw my offspeed pitches in the zone was key. I worked on my offspeed pitches over the summer to be able to throw them in any count. That's been really helpful."

Crouse only allowed two runs all fall while striking out 25 hitters and walking only two. He gave up just nine hits in facing 69 total batters. Those are impressive numbers indeed.

"I think part of it is experience," he said. "Being here last fall and going through a spring season, it helped. Nothing's new. Just having been through everything once makes it all a lot easier."

The 6-foot-4 Haymarket, Va., product has had trouble putting on weight. He arrived at Ole Miss last year weighing 177 pounds.

"I was 186 Monday (this week)," said Crouse, smiling. "I eat all the time, but we're working on my weight and strength."

Crouse's fall has obviously put him in a position to make a run at being a weekend starter.

Tanner Mathis

"But I've still got to come out in the spring intrasquads and throw well again," he said.

If the fall is any indication, he will do just that.

Mathis was the lone Rebel to hit over .400 this fall, checking in with an outstanding .420 average in 50 at-bats.

"I worked a lot this summer on staying back behind the ball and driving it," he said. "When I got here (in August), we worked on driving the ball, especially to the pull side. I felt that had been the weaker of the two. I just worked on hitting it hard."

Whatever he worked on was effective. Mathis had 17 singles, a double, two triples, and a home run. He had 12 RBI, walked twice, and struck out 10 times. It was an impressive fall session for the Lake Charles, La., native.

"This fall has been a lot different for me," he said. "I actually had a good (freshman) fall last year. But this year I'm really hitting the ball harder. It's more barrels, more clean hits, than last year."

And confidence is a positive, too.

"I feel like I'm going to get a hit when I get up there," said Mathis, who played mostly in center field this fall. "This year with a year under my belt it's kind of expected of me to be a leader, to hit the ball hard, to play defense and catch everything. I feel I've gotten a lot better defensively, too."

Mathis had some goals in mind for the fall and reached them.

"I wanted to hit over .400. I achieved that," he said. "My main goal was to hit the ball hard. I can take line outs or one hops, even if I'm out. The thing I always want to do is get my best swing off. That's so important."

The Rebels open the 2011 season Feb. 18-20 with a three-game home weekend series against Wright State.

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