Open Season

FORT WORTH, Texas - Bobby Wahl has gotten much of the attention this preseason. First-game starters normally do.

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You can name some of those considered the "ace" of the staff from the past at any given point. Drew Pomeranz, Lance Lynn, Will Kline, Mark Holliman, Jeff McAvoy, Lance Tolbert, Jamey Price. Some are recent. Some go way back. Some were also Saturday or second-game starters before they were moved up a day.

Saturday at TCU, weather-permitting, senior right-hander R.J. Hively will get his chance as a weekend starter. Last season he struggled to find his way through a disappointing 30-25 season of no postseason. He had arm soreness in February and into March. By then, the junior college transfer from California was behind and never seemed to find his rhythm.

He only drew one start and made 13 appearances, pitching just 18.1 innings. But he changed his mental outlook, got in better shape, and knew he would be needed this season.

He had a solid fall and was always mentioned as a potential weekend starter. That didn't change this preseason. And now he gets the ball on Saturday here.

"It's why I came here in the first place," he said of getting a weekend start. "I'm definitely honored and thankful. We've got a really good pitching staff. Really deep this year. That's exciting knowing that anyone who comes in behind you can get the job done."

Hively said the pitchers have shown progress all fall and preseason.

"As a staff in general, everyone has gone out and done their job when they needed to," he said. "The big thing is we don't walk a lot of people, which is good. We fill up the zone and use our defense."

Back Home Again

Alex Yarbrough is back home for the series this weekend. The Rebel junior second baseman is from Allen, Texas, near Dallas. So he is extremely familiar with TCU and its ballpark.

Alex Yarbrough
Associated Press

"It's exciting. I think I've got 10 or 12 family and friends who will be there for every game," Yarbrough said of those who will support him and the Rebels in Fort Worth. "I'm really excited about it. I played so many games there growing up with my summer team, the Dallas Mustangs. It's going to be really cool to play there with all my teammates for something that really matters."

He knows some of the Horned Frog players.

"Their left fielder, Jason Coats (of Plano, Texas), was in my district," Yarbrough said. "He's a year older than me. I played against him for three years in high school and he was in the Cape (Cod League) last year, too. Second baseman (sophomore) Brett Johnson (of Plano, Texas) was in my district as well and I played with him from when I was 11 to 16 or so and was one of my best friends on the team. There are some others, and they've got a great team, I'm sure."

Yarbrough said he believes the Rebels are ready for a tough challenge against a high-profile program this first weekend of the 2012 season.

"It's been great," he said. "The team has done well and taken advantage of the last three or four weeks. I think we couldn't really be any more prepared. It's important to play well. It's the first three games of the season, the first there games of 56. You can't get too high or too low based on the first three games. We're just trying to play well, and it would be nice if we came out on top."

Coaching Fraternity

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco knows TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle well. Their paths have crossed many times, certainly back when the two were assistants at LSU and Tulane respectively, and through the Ole Miss-TCU series. This is the third time since 2008 the two programs have met, and they will play again in Oxford to open the 2013 season.

Texas Christian, picked to win the Mountain West for a seventh straight season, will be in the Big XII when they arrive at Ole Miss this time next year.

"If you look at Jim's resume' and bio, it's impressive," Bianco said. "Just a great coach who believes in pitching and does a great job in recruiting. He really knows the game and gets the most out of his guys."

TCU has become known as a team that hustles all the time, that has more energy than most, and it's even been documented in stories nationally.

"They're going to play hard. They'll play good baseball," Bianco said. "Much was made a couple of years ago in the College World Series of just how they hustle on and off the field. People even comment about that. Obviously if you are doing that, you play that kind of baseball. They're fun to watch, and they play the game the way it should be played. They're going to do everything well."

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