Baseball's Back

The Saturday intrasquad game was played under sunny skies with temperatures in the 70s. Sunday it was cooler and rained. But the reports from the first two scrimmages of the preseason were positive.

"It thought it was a real good weekend, a good start," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "Saturday was really dominated by the pitchers, pretty good defense and a low-scoring game. Sunday I thought we pitched well but there were a few more hits, a few more walks. The baserunners put a little more pressure on (the pitchers) with a few more stolen bases. It was a lot of fun, a 6-6 tie at the end."

Several pitchers posted good numbers, including two veterans in Matt Crouse (two innings, five strikeouts) and David Goforth (two innings, one hit, one walk, two strikeouts). Bianco was pleased with both.

"They were terrific," he said. "But Saturday just about everybody pitched great. Trent Rothlin (two ininngs, three strikeouts). Brett Huber (two innings, two hits, four strikeouts). Jake Morgan (two innings, three strikeouts). I thought Crouse looked special out there. Everybody's velocity was up. The command of a couple of guys wasn't great. Nothing bad. Other guys looked really sharp with all pitches, which is unusual.

Mike Bianco

"(Freshman) Bobby Wahl (two innings, one hit, one run, one walk, three strikeouts) looked terrific (Sunday) to start the game. He got the first five outs and then he threw a ball, then kind of slipped off the mound and tweaked his quad a little bit. But I thought he looked really sharp today."

Sophomore Blair Wright, who had Tommy John surgery last season, pitched Sunday, and Bianco was glad to see that.

"That was really neat to see him out there. It's been a long time since he's been healthy," Bianco said. "He did well too for the first time back out there."

Batter Up

The new bats mandated by the NCAA continue to be tweaked. Ole Miss got its latest model in November and used them this weekend.

"They improved the original two models," Bianco said. "There's a one-piece (bat) and a two-piece. We used the latest ones they sent us this weekend. They're a little different, a little better (for the hitters). I think that will happen with the specifications, because it was so new. But I think that will happen with all the bats. The players (hitters) were a little happier with the new bats, but again I don't know if you can really tell yet."

Bianco said the hitters haven't really been that negative toward the new bats.

"After the initial wow (in early fall), I haven't heard it," he said. "You've probably heard more pitchers comment that it's fun to pitch against them (the new bats) as opposed to the hitters complaining. I'm proud of that. At the end of the day, that's what they tell you you've got to hit with. So you've got to hit and score runs."

Bianco named several who looked good offensively this weekend.

Morgan, bloody nose and all, in '09 Super Regional

"(Freshman) Peyton Johnson got three hits today (3-for-4, triple). (Matt) Smith is swinging it good. Just missed a couple of balls and then ripped a double. (Tanner) Mathis (3-for-5, double on Sunday) has swung the bat great. (Jordan) King looks terrific. (Freshman Preston) Overbey has swung it really well. There are some guys that did well for a first weekend plus one practice (Friday). So they've swung it really well."

Bianco said that while the weekend went well, there were few questions answered. It is, after all, quite early in preseason practices. The season is still three weeks away.

"Trying to figure out the (pitching) rotation is the biggest decision that needs to be made," he said. "I've been really happy with (Brett) Huber and (Jake) Morgan (out of the bullpen). To watch Rothlin pitch like that is big. Last year we weren't real strong out of the bullpen. We were too inconsistent. With Huber and Morgan and Rothlin, and other guys like (Eric) Callender, that's a good thing. But we've got figure out the three (weekend) guys. The ones vying for it pitched well this weekend."

The lone home run of the weekend came on Sunday, a solo shot by junior outfielder Zach Kirksey. Freshman Will Allen was 2-for-4 Sunday.

Morgan Back and Ready

Jake Morgan made his first public mound appearance Saturday since Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2009. He pitched two innings and looked strong, facing six batters, striking out three, and allowing nothing.

"I felt great. I seemed to have everything working for me," said the senior from Canton. "I came back today and threw a little bit (in the bullpen). I felt like I could go again. So I'm really excited about it. I'd have to say I'm back 100 percent."

Morgan said that at times he's overly excited about the upcoming season.

"Back in the fall I may have even tried to overthrow," he said, admitting that he has actually felt 100 percent since August. "During the break over Christmas, I went back and thought about it and what I was out here for. I tried to get back to where I was – just calm, cool and collected."

Morgan has lost weight and conditioned himself better since his last time to pitch for Ole Miss, which was way back in June, 2009 when Virginia was in Oxford for the Super Regional.

"I looked back at some pictures and...," he said, laughing. "Seriously, I started eating healthy and it was one of those things that if I couldn't be on the mound helping the team, then I want to be the best I can possibly be when I get back. That meant getting my body in shape to be 100 percent ready to go."

Morgan, at 6-foot-1, was at 230 pounds at his peak and now weighs 205. He said that with him and Brett Huber both in the bullpen, the Rebels should be that much better off this season.

"Depth's never a bad thing, and having him go on the days I can't go, or if he goes the first day and then I can go, it's just going to be really nice," Morgan said. "Last year he carried the load in the late innings. Before that (in 2009) I carried the load in the late innings."

Now they can share those responsibilities, and the Rebels are better for it.


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