Stepping Up

Dylan Chavez had a decision to make last August after his junior college career. Would it be the Twins, who drafted him in the 32nd round, or The University of Mississippi for college?

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Chavez chose the Ole Miss Rebels and made the cross-country trek. He made some progress during the fall, but not as fast as he nor the Rebel coaches hoped.

Then came the holiday break and on into the preseason workouts and practices this semester. Chavez had made a move. After two appearances this season, it's becoming apparent the junior left-hander will be called upon quite a bit.

"He looks terrific," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "He's a guy that didn't have a real good fall, and he's put on about 20 pounds since he's been here. He looks like a different guy. He's really worked hard in the weight room. Better fast ball, better command, better breaking ball."

Bianco said it isn't only in the early games that he's seen the difference.

"That's not just in the two outings," he said. "Since he's been back (from the holiday break), from the first bullpen he threw (in mid-January), he looks like a different guy."

Chavez pitched an inning in the Rebels' 2-0 win against UNC-Wilmington Friday, relieving starter Bobby Wahl to begin the eighth inning and keeping things where they were for closer Brett Huber in the ninth. He faced four batters, allowing a hit and striking out one Seahawk.

Chavez has made two appearances in the Rebels' first four games
Ole Miss

Against TCU, he also came in for Wahl, in that contest to start the sixth and went 1.2 innings, allowing two runs on three hits with three strikeouts, facing eight Horned Frogs.

The Rebels are 3-1 on the season. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, the lone left-hander with any significant collegiate innings on the staff, likes the progress he's made.

"I feel like I've done well," Chavez, of Sacramento, Calif., said of his first two outings. "Coach (Bianco) always tells us just to go in and be aggressive and pound the strike zone. That's what I tried to do (Friday). Bobby (Wahl) did real well. (Brett) Huber came in after me and did real well. I just tried to be an extension of what they were doing."

Chavez came to Ole Miss from American River (Community) College in Sacramento where he pitched just one season. After graduating from Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove, Calif., Chavez had attended St. Mary's College, a four-year school near San Francisco, but left after only a year for ARC.

Chavez admits things weren't always positive for him last semester after he arrived at Ole Miss as far as pitching was concerned.

"I got here in the fall, and it was tough at first," he said. "Velocity was down. Stuff was down. But I just stayed with it and kept working hard. Coach (Carl Lafferty) told me my stuff was going to be better in the spring. I trusted him, kept working hard, and it's worked out for me so far."

Now it's paying off in games. But Chavez said that's the case for all the pitchers, who have worked hard to become a more effective staff.

"It's a great day," he said after he, Wahl, and Huber pitched the 2-0 shutout of the Seahawks Friday. "We really dominated today and did what Coach (Bianco) told us to do. Just go out and be big and compete."

Gametime today is 3 p.m. for the second of three contests between Ole Miss and North Carolina-Wilmington. Sunday's finale is at 12 noon.

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