Planning for the Future

There's still some time between now and baseball's draft in June. Hawtin Buchanan has gotten more time to think about it than he'd like.

That's because his Biloxi High Indians team lost in the second round of the state Class 6A playoffs. Their plans were to advance and win it all.

"We won our district and had a first down bye. We had like 10 days off (from games as they awaited round two), and that seemed to kill our momentum," said the 6-foot-8, 240-pound right-hander, an Ole Miss signee. "We were swinging hot bats coming out of the regular season. Our bats just went cold once the playoffs started. That seemed to be a bad thing about the layoff."

Harrison Central, which eliminated Biloxi, had played Jim Hill High in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round, the Indians couldn't recapture the magic of their regular season, and summertime came early.

It was disappointing for the Biloxi team, and it certainly was for its seniors. Buchanan said he looks back on the season and his career with positive thoughts.

"I felt like it was a good season for me personally," said Buchanan, who was 7-3 this spring with a 1.90 ERA. "I was a lot more confident out there (this season). I guess some of that comes with being a senior and a leader on the team."

Buchanan had 77 strikeouts in 55 innings. One game against Ocean Springs he pitched a complete game with 16 strikeouts and only allowed two hits. In a game against Pascagoula, he had 12 strikeouts and gave up just three hits. He hit 96 miles per hour that night. He was clocked as high as 97 this season.

As a hitter he batted .323 with four home runs and 30 RBI. Buchanan said he isn't sure he'll hit in college as well as pitch, like a Matt Tracy for example. But his unofficial "tryouts" have been positive.

"Two times Coach (Carl) Lafferty has been at my games, I've hit a home run," he said.

Buchanan didn't do too badly pitching when Lafferty attended one game this season, pitching two innings and "I was like 95-96" on the mound, he said.

Buchanan said he's taken a break from baseball the past couple of weeks.

"I took some time off after our season was over, just to give my arm a break," he said. "With the draft and everything, I'm just kind of waiting to see what happens. "

Hawtin Buchanan
Buchanan understands how things work at this point, as the draft is almost upon him and college is just a few weeks away.

"A lot of it depends on signability," he said of where a player is potentially drafted. "It's just how signable they think you are. They'll ask you for a number, like how much it will take for you to sign. I'm not really giving them a number, and I've told them I'm leaning toward going to college."

Buchanan said it basically comes down to the fact that he wants to go to school, and he wants to play baseball at Ole Miss.

"Of course if they throw some ridiculous figure at you, it would be something to think about," he said. "That would make it a bigger decision, a life-changing sort of thing. But Ole Miss is where I want to be."

Lafferty has good things to say about Buchanan.

"Certainly he's a high-profile guy, and it's wait and see with the draft approaching," the Ole Miss assistant coach said. "He's a super competitor and has that quarterback mentality. He knows how to win games, and we're certainly looking forward to seeing him do that in a Rebel uniform."

Lafferty said Buchanan can be a handful for opposing batters.

"He's obviously an imposing figure on the mound. He throws the ball really hard. Throwing from a 6-foot-8 frame, it's really downhill and makes it hard to square up. You see hitters swing and miss a lot at his fast ball."

Buchanan will play in the Mississippi All-Star Game on June 4 in Pearl. He may play a tournament or two with Merucci Elite, a team he plays with in the summers. Then he plans to enroll in summer school in Oxford at the end of June.

Buchanan is part of an outstanding signing class that so far includes 15 players, 11 of them college freshmen to be, and eight of them pitchers. And a number of them are Mississippians or Ole Miss legacies – or both.

"The (Ole Miss) coaches have brought in premier talent," Buchanan said. "It gets you excited, especially seeing all the freshmen that are contributing now (on the current Ole Miss team). And knowing the guys that are coming in with my class, there's just a lot of talent. I know we have a chance to do something special."

And as for the draft, Buchanan will simply wait it out and monitor things on that particular day in just a few weeks.

"I'm just taking it one day at a time," he said. "I'm happy I signed with Ole Miss. More than likely that's where I'll end up. It's where I want to pitch."

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