Feeling the Fire

Matt Smith was candid postgame Wednesday about his arm situation, the one that left him out of action two games, the one that started when he tore ligaments pitching three years ago last month.

"It's just going to be one of those things that I play and see how it feels the next day," said Smith, who may have actually been living with that type situation at some level since his debut in relief on the mound against Minnesota in the 2008 season opener.

"If it starts acting up again, I'm going to take some time off. It's really just trying to make it through the season and help out the team as much as possible."

Smith's successful career of five years at Ole Miss has been sprinkled, more or less, with avoiding some type setback. He never pitched again after that moment as a redshirt freshman. He's persevered and still does.

"Tonight it felt good," he said after manning first base and going 0 for 3 with a walk in a lopsided Rebel win of 11-3 against Austin Peay. "(Thursday) it could feel horrible, or it could feel great. That's one of those things you just really don't know."

Smith took two games off Sunday and Tuesday, although he wanted to play. But he knew he had to do so.

"It's just how much I throw, how much I hit," he said that affects how his arm feels. "I'll do different things during the week as far as not throwing as much, not hitting as much. Just finding out what works and what keeps it feeling good."

It's bothered his throwing more than his batting to this point this season, he says.

"Pretty much my throwing is the biggest thing right now," said the usual Rebel right fielder. "With the torn ligament (now three years old), my strength for some reason is just now starting to dwindle down."

Matt Smith keeps battling through some pain
Courtesy: Bruce Newman
Ever the team leader and baseball player, the Georgian wants to contribute now and is doing what it takes to make that happen, even if pain resurfaces.

"I could hit," he said. "It's just one of those things, like they said how much pain do you want to deal with and can you play with? I can definitely hit. But I'm just hoping it calms down for now. I'm not taking infield before the games to lessen the amount of throws that I get.

"I got an x-ray last Thursday just to see," he continued. "The ligament's been torn for like three years. Now it's more of a bone issue. They're worried about the more you grind on it with the bone chips and stuff like that. I got some antibiotics Monday from the doctor, and we're just trying to calm it down."

Stepping Up:

Freshman right-hander Mike Mayers, making his third appearance but first start as a Rebel, didn't appear to have it in the first inning Wednesday. He gave up a double and two triples, and Austin Peay led 2-0 before he recorded an out.

Beyond that, however, Mayers looked like a veteran.

"After the first two or three hitters, I changed a lot (of his approach)," he said. "The first couple of hitters I didn't attack the zone. After that I just started attacking the zone, let them put it in play and let the defense work behind me."

Good call. He allowed just one more hit and one more run through five innings of work.

Offensively, the Rebels scored six runs in the bottom of the first, and Mayers said that boosted him the rest of the way.

"That definitely helped," said the Ohio freshman of all the support he got from the Rebel bats. "It made me go out there and just relax. I know how to throw strikes, and after that first inning I knew our offense was going to be with me tonight."

Mayers said he wasn't really anxious or jittery out there for his first collegiate start. He just wasn't approaching the situation correctly early on.

"It wasn't really nerves," he said. "I just wasn't attacking the zone."

Lesson learned for the Rebel rookie.

Off His Back:

A usually smiling Matt Snyder was that even moreso after the game Wednesday night. Lopsided victories and home runs will do that.

Snyder hit his first round-tripper of the season in the 11-3 win. The score was 8-3 at the time, and his three-RBI blast was some insurance for his ballclub. And it made Snyder feel a lot better about life.

Tulane trip was tough for Snyder last year
Courtesy: Bruce Newman
"Have I still got that monkey on my back?" he asked, smiling, turning his back and moving his hand in a swiping motion. "Seriously, it felt real good."

Snyder, with his oft-injured and surgically-repaired shoulder, said home runs hadn't been his major thought to this point. Although the Rebels need him to hit some, since he does have the power to do so, those have had to wait.

"Honestly I hadn't really been trying to hit home runs," said Snyder, who had 20 of them his first two seasons, even with the injury situation last year. "I've just been trying to get my swing down because lately my back shoulder has been dropping a little bit, and that's what happens to me at the beginning of a season sometimes. Just trying to do a little too much. Lately I've been trying to hit the ball opposite field and get more line drives just to make sure I get that swing down."

But he did admit when the ball left the park Wednesday, it felt good.

"I saw it clear the fence, and I was happy about that, because I don't have a zero under that category any more," he said, smiling, laughing, upbeat as always. "It's starting to come now. I can feel the fire."

Snyder said he feels good at the plate currently and hopes it continues.

"Right now I feel awesome. I have a great feeling for the strike zone right now. I'm not taking swings at pitches I shouldn't be swinging at," the Virginian said. "I'm up there and if they're going to walk me, I'll take the walk. Because I know the guys behind me will get me in."

Ole Miss hosts Tulane this weekend for three games. That's the series in New Orleans where last season Snyder went down with injury on a Friday night. He said the name "Tulane" haunts him a bit still.

"It definitely does. That brings back terrible memories for me," he said. "Hopefully this time it will be good memories. We're not on that (artificial) turf anymore, and I never want to play on that again. That was a bad time, but we won two out of three, so I wasn't talking about that. Other than the shoulder, there were good memories. As far as the shoulder, not good memories."

Snyder watched the rest of the way against the Green Wave a year ago. He said he remembers them as a solid team.

"I paid attention the whole weekend, just because I knew they were a good team and are always a good team," he said. "They're a top 25 team the beginning of this season, so they obviously have some guys on the team that can do the work. They're going to come in here and definitely make us play well."

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