The Finishing Touch

AUBURN, Ala. - Ole Miss ace closer Jake Morgan threw for the first time in weeks before the Rebels' 10-7 win against Auburn Friday night. In his stead has been a sensational freshman, Bobby Wahl.

The right-hander, who many thought might vie for a weekend starting role, has turned into a closer of some dominance as he picked up his third save of the season against the Tigers.

Wahl, already saying a game ago he was growing accustomed to the role, was all smiles again after pitching the last 1.2 innings with four strikeouts and a walk but no runs or hits.

Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco has been pleased with the way Wahl has accepted the role and excelled.

"I thought he was certainly clutch," Bianco said after his team moved to 24-16 on the season and 9-8 in Southeastern Conference play. "We've seen it. Same stuff. A 92-96 mile an hour fast ball. Today I really thought he adrenalized in the eighth. It was almost all fast balls. He's even better than that with his offspeed stuff.

"On the road in the SEC with people on (base), I thought he did a terrific job."

Wahl said he was ready when he relieved Mike Mayers in the eighth, but there was business to take care of.

"It was tough, coming in with a guy on first base," he said. "But you gotta bear down. You've just gotta keep throwing strikes and attacking the zone."

"It was typical us, one of those grind it out games," Bianco said, meaning it's never easy for this team this year, it seems.

Bobby Wahl got his 3rd save as a Rebel
Bruce Newman
Bianco said starter David Goforth, now 3-5 with the win, wasn't his best on this night.

"It might have been the worst I've seen David pitch," Bianco said. "But he handled it. They're really good offensively, and he was able to stay out of the big inning."

The Rebels led 8-2 early, the big shots a solo home run over the 37-foot green monster in left by Preston Overbey and a three-run blast by Matt Snyder over the right field wall. That was through four innings. But the homestanding Tigers weren't done.

Two runs in the fifth got Auburn back in it at 8-4. But Eric Callender came in to slow things down to start the sixth and went 2.1 innings.

The Rebels, who outhit the Tigers 13-10, were able to get two runs in the seventh to lead 10-4 on a Matt Tracy RBI groundout and a Snyder RBI groundout immediately after.

A three-run eighth for Auburn (21-17, 8-9), first with Callender still on the mound and then with Mayers in, got the Tigers back in it, only down three runs. That's when Bianco called on Wahl, who finished things up in winning fashion.

Morgan didn't have pain when throwing Friday, but still felt a little something in his shoulder. He will throw again Saturday to see how he feels. There is hope he can pitch sometime soon.

Wahl said Morgan has been a positive reinforcement for him throughout his first year in college, especially lately.

"Jake's been great to me," he said. "He's been helping me through this whole closing thing from day one. I'm always going to him for advice."

Hopefully it won't be much longer before Bianco can go to Morgan again at the end of games. Until then, and maybe even after that, Wahl is the guy for Ole Miss.

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