On The Mound

Fall ball has come and gone, and the Rebel baseball team and coaches considered it a success. We know more about the team now, but there are still questions to be answered prior to the season-opening weekend at TCU Feb. 17-19.

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Like who will the weekend starting pitchers be for Ole Miss? Everybody always wants to know that, especially in a season like this one when all three starters from last year do not return.

For the first time in head coach Mike Bianco's tenure, the same three pitchers – Matt Crouse, David Goforth, and Austin Wright – started every weekend of last season. Bobby Wahl, the sophomore right-hander, will enter preseason practices in January as the frontrunner. Bianco has already said as much.

"He's really kind of taken that role as the No. 1 guy," Bianco said last week.

But it's not really a surprise. Wahl was recruited to be a weekend starter, got some experience last spring after early-season arm soreness, and had a solid fall ball session just completed.

Unless things change in January and early February, senior right-hander R.J. Hively all but solidified himself as one of the three weekend starters. Hively, also with early-season arm soreness last spring, was able to get some Division I experience last season, totally committed himself to improving all aspects of his game this summer, got in the best shape of his life, and had a fall equally as solid as Wahl did.

So if those two hold on to their apparent spots, who is the third weekend starter? Junior right-hander Tanner Bailey was among those right there in position and still might be. He had rehabbed from shoulder surgery the past year and had pitched well most of the fall. But some recent discomfort, not where his surgery was but in another area of the upper arm/shoulder, causes a bit of concern? Is this a brief setback and some time to rest will take care of it? Or will it bother him in the months ahead? We've seen both results in similar instances with other players, and each one is certainly an individual situation. They say Bailey should be fine, so that's a good sign.

Sophomore right-hander Mike Mayers had a solid fall after gaining experience last spring in numerous outings. He could be a weekend starter. Fourth-year junior right-hander Brett Huber, with a ton of experience at this level, could go on the weekends, too. So could one of the freshmen, like right-hander Josh Laxer or right-hander Hawtin Buchanan, if they continue to improve and develop. Junior right-hander Blair Wright also had impressive stats from the fall.

Brett Huber
Bruce Newman

There's obviously a strong chance that at least one or two of the starters that first weekend against the Horned Frogs won't be in the starting rotation by May. Most years that's the case. Some of it is because a pitcher might not get the job done. Or another might step up and take over a spot. Or injury sometimes comes into play.

One thing's for sure. There's more depth and more options this year than last. Beyond the first four or five that have emerged, however, the Rebels need to see at least two or three more take big steps in the preseason practices.

A couple of pitchers who somewhat surprisingly had difficult falls were freshman RHP Casey Mulholland and junior LHP Dylan Chavez. Mulholland continues to work to get back to top form as he was before Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2010. It's been a slower than expected process. Chavez didn't have the fall anticipated coming in, but being a left-hander they need him to step up and become a factor in the preseason practices.

Who will be the middle relievers? Who will start the midweek games? Will there be just "a closer" or will a couple of players be vying for that role. Huber and Wahl are both experienced closers, but they are obviously being considered for starting roles in 2012.

Here are all the pitching stats from 2011 fall ball. Some of those listed are position players who can also pitch if the need arises. Categories are innings pitched, earned run average, earned runs, strikeouts, hits, walks.

Junior RHP Tanner Bailey – 14.33 IP, 0.63 ERA, 1 ER, 6 K, 12 H, 4 BB

Senior RHP R.J. Hively – 20.00 IP, 0.90 ERA, 2 ER, 17 K, 14 H, 3 BB

Junior RHP Blair Wright – 14.33 IP, 1.26 ERA, 2 ER, 12 K, 10, H, 2 BB

Sophomore RHP Bobby Wahl – 23.00 IP, 1.57 ERA, 4 ER, 19 K, 17 H, 2 BB

Freshman RHP Josh Laxer – 17.00 IP, 2.65 ERA, 5 ER, 7 K, 8 H, 6 BB

Sophomore RHP Mike Mayers – 22.00 IP, 2.86 ERA, 7 ER, 12 K, 20 H, 2 BB

Junior RHP Brett Huber – 19.00 IP, 3.32 ERA, 7 ER, 19 K, 9 H, 10 BB

Freshman LHP Chase Reeves – 5.00 IP, 3.60 ERA, 2 ER, 4 K, 6 H, 6 BB

Junior RHP John Gatlin – 9.67 IP, 3.72 ERA, 4 ER, 10 K, 10 H, 2 BB

Freshman RHP Casey Greene – 7.00 IP, 3.86 ERA, 3 ER, 4 K, 5 H, 2 BB

Freshman RHP Sam Smith – 13.33 IP, 4.05 ERA, 6 ER, 3 K, 15 H, 1 BB

Freshman LHP Will Jamison – 6.00 IP, 4.50 ERA, 3 ER, 3 K, 4 H, 2 BB

Freshman RHP Hawtin Buchanan – 19.67 IP, 4.58 ERA, 10 ER, 18 K, 20 H, 12 BB

Freshman RHP Austin Hartzog – 15.33 IP, 5.28 ERA, 9 ER, 11 K, 7 H, 8 BB

Senior LHP Jon Andy Scott – 13.00 IP, 5.54 ERA, 8 ER, 11 K, 20 H, 2 BB

Freshman RHP Scott Weathersby – 15.67 IP, 5.74 ERA, 10 ER, 11 K, 21 H, 4 BB

Junior LHP Dustin McWilliams – 14.00 IP, 7.07 ERA, 11 ER, 9 K, 16 H, 6 BB

Sophomore RHP Aaron Greenwood – 17.67 IP, 7.13 ERA, 14 ER, 17 K, 25 H, 2 BB

Freshman RHP Chris Ellis – 12.67 IP, 8.53 ERA, 12 ER, 11 K, 16 H, 8 BB

Junior LHP Dylan Chavez – 15.67 IP, 9.77 ERA, 17 ER, 10 K, 21 H, 9 BB

Freshman RHP Casey Mulholland – 13.67 IP, 10.54 ERA, 16 ER, 10 K, 24 H, 7 BB

Sophomore RHP Preston Overbey – 1.00 IP, 27.00 ERA, 3 ER, 0 K, 3 H, 0 BB

(Cover picture - senior RHP R.J. Hively)

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