Stepping Up

All three weekend starters are gone from last year for Ole Miss baseball. Two pitchers appear to have emerged from the pack as fall ball has come to a close.

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Bobby Wahl and R.J. Hively have positioned themselves as the frontrunners for weekend starts, at least at this point. Head coach Mike Bianco seems to have given the early nod as the Friday night starter to the sophomore right-hander from Virginia.

"Bobby's just been dominant, but that's really not unexpected because of last year," Bianco said. "He had a good summer and really hasn't stopped. He's really kind of taken that role as the No. 1 guy. There's a presence about him. He competes. He brings some energy out there. He looks like an SEC ace."

Wahl had a 1.57 ERA in 23 innings, while Hively had a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings.

Their teammates have noticed, too. Junior second baseman Alex Yarbrough has been impressed.

"Bobby and R.J. have been awesome the whole fall," said Yarbrough, the team's leading hitter this session with an impressive .455 batting average. "They've thrown a lot of strikes, and they throw with a lot of velocity and great offspeed pitches. They came out and gave us four strong innings each (in the World Series last week). They did a great job of getting us some early momentum in both games."

Yarbrough leads the way:

In addition to his top-notch average, Yarbrough had several superlatives offensively for Ole Miss. In 17 fall games, he had two home runs, two triples, six doubles, 15 singles, and 17 RBI.

"It went as well as I could have expected," said Yarbrough, who had key hits in almost every intrasquad of the fall. "I accomplished some things. Coach (Cliff) Godwin was great about helping me refine some things with my swing and my approach. But I believe it was a great fall for the whole team."

Running in the outfield:

Almost like the three weekend starters having to be replaced, the only returning outfielder with a lot of experience is junior Tanner Mathis. Several Rebels, old and new, are vying for spots in the outfield.

Senior Zach Kirksey, with a good bit of experience from last season, came on and had a solid fall. Sophomore Preston Overbey, mainly at third base or first base before, saw time in right field this fall.

Newcomers also figured in the mix. Freshmen Will Jamison, with blazing speed, and Auston Bousfield, who threw out six players at the plate from several outfield positions, were impressive.

The Rebels definitely have more speed this year
Jeff Roberson

"We obviously run a lot better out there," Bianco said, with some decisions to make given the talent level and the production of the outfielders. "We'll defend a lot better in the outfield than we have. And that's without (Senquez) Golson being out there yet. You look at Mathis and Jamison and Bousfield out there. Kirksey's improved. Overbey's played well out there, and all his defense (in college before this fall) had been at third base or first base. So yeah, a lot of depth in the outfield."

More decisions to make:

With football players Golson and Chief Brown on the roster for next semester, the Rebels are at 41 players. NCAA rules say there can only be 35.

"I don't think anything will change with that until probably January," he said. "We actually don't have to do anything until the day before we play, which is Feb. 16. We'll have to decide before that, because we'll be traveling on Feb. 16 (to TCU for three games to open the season). There's a chance at the end (of the semester) we could talk with some guys here in the fall. We'll sit down with the coaches and we've still got about three weeks left with workouts. But it's difficult to make that determination.

"I'd like to say we're not going to decide that until about the 15th of February. But a couple may be decided before then."

Health situations arise:

Junior right-handed pitcher Tanner Bailey and junior outfielder/first baseman Tyler Roach both experienced setbacks this fall. But hopefully both are back to good health now.

Bailey, who was here last school year but missed last season because of shoulder surgery and rehab, was outstanding this fall, actually leading the Rebels in ERA at 0.63 in 14 and a third innings.

But the last week of the fall he felt some discomfort and was shut down, missing out on the World Series finale last week.

"Tanner has thrown for over a year now with the rehab," Bianco said. "He had some soreness in his shoulder (a week ago). Not the labrum (where he had surgery). It was more in his rotater cuff. He actually didn't hurt the last weekend when he pitched. But when he came out to flush (to play catch the following day after pitching), he had some discomfort. (Last Monday) in the weight room he was doing some exercising, and it was bothering him. They (doctors) just thought it was best he didn't throw."

Bianco said he believes Bailey is well and will be back to normal after being shut down the rest of the semester.

"He's fine. It just wasn't worth it to throw him (last week), especially a kid coming off surgery," Bianco said.

Roach had played both infield and outfield earlier in the fall. But a heart situation that lingered caused them to shut him down as well, and also to have extensive testing done. After the tests, he was cleared with a good report.

For several weeks Roach was having an abnormal feeling that could best be described as a racing heart after exertion.

"It was more for peace of mind," Bianco said of the tests that were run. "He had heart racing after activity. Not during it but after. He'd worn a couple of different heart monitors."

Roach should be able to participate in the current individual and group workouts the rest of the semester.

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