The Long Road Back

Casey Mulholland pitched two innings for Ole Miss in Wednesday night's 11-5 win against Murray State. The right-handed freshman may not pitch at all this weekend.

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But at some level he's OK with where things are as he continues to work his way back. That's because of how much he's gone through to get back to where he is.

Translation: Mulholland, a name familiar to Ole Miss fans, committed to Ole Miss back in 2009 when he was at The Pendleton School at IMG Academies. He was projected by many baseball experts to be a Friday night starter in the Southeastern Conference.

Mulholland was on course to compete for the role Rebel sophomore Bobby Wahl, who is scheduled to start tonight, has had this season. But in the spring of 2010, there was a major bump in the road. Mulholland had Tommy John surgery.

Lives changed, especially Mullholand's.

He remained in Florida for another school year instead of arriving at Ole Miss to rehab in the fall of 2010. He finally got to Oxford last summer for fall classes. The past two years have given him a lot of time to think and try to put all things in perspective. And, as hard as it might be for some to fathom, just trying to recall things that used to come so natural.

"It's just remembering little things," said the 20-year-old Mulholland. "You do something for so long and grow up playing the game. In Florida we played year ‘round; never took an off season. So when you step away from the game and you come back to it, you just forget how to compete a little bit sometimes, you forget certain little things that are hard to explain. But every time I step out there, something small comes back that helps me be more successful each time."

Along with being coached at Ole Miss and being around the other pitchers here, Mulholland finds that sometimes things just randomly come back to him from years ago.

"It can be sitting in class one day and something clicks, it can be sitting on the bus, it can be watching guys pitch," said the 6-foot-4, 180-pounder. "It's great now that the major league season is back and I get to watch those guys, the best at their trade. All those things remind you of some things you've been taught in the past and remind you mechanically of some things here and there. Also some of your goals to get there."

And Mulholland does want to get there. He has had to rely on the belief that things will continue to get better and that he will be able to accomplish the things he had hoped for basically all his life.

"My faith in Christ has been the biggest thing for me so far," said Mullholand, who has logged just 7.2 innings this season with a 3.52 ERA. "It's really tested my faith. It's been tough. I'm not going to lie. Sitting around and not doing much is not what I want to do. I've really had to go back and kind of evaluate myself as a person. It's challenged me not just on the field but off the field.

"God's given me the ability to throw a baseball well, but I want to glorify him on the field with my talents. I think the biggest thing now is when I get back out here, I have a different perspective. I have an appreciation for the game."

This summer he plans to play in the Northwoods League, comprised of top college players from around the country. He's hopeful things will continue to get even better for him there as he prepares to continue his collegiate career. He's excited about the rest of this season and the summer and appreciates more than ever the opportunities before him.

"I love getting back out there now. It's exhilarating," he said. "Going out there and realizing how quickly things can be taken away from you again. I have a dream and I have a goal. And I want to get there. To get to that goal I have to be an energy giver to make myself and my teammates better. That's what I have to do."

As for pitching Wednesday night those two innings, it was all positive, Mulholland said.

"I felt good. I feel like every week I'm getting better and better," he said. "Mentally I'm a lot different person that I was back then. Now I'm relearning what it means to be successful. I just try to get better each day."

Headline Weekend

Ole Miss and LSU meet for three games beginning tonight. It's a critical series for both.

The Tigers are 14-7 in Southeastern Conference play and tied for first with Kentucky and South Carolina. Ole Miss is 10-11 (30-16 overall) in the middle of the pack. Both want to make a run at their top goals, and this weekend is a key for that.

Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers are both set to start for the Rebels the first two games. As for the Sunday starter, such a struggle for Ole Miss since moving R.J. Hively into a relief role, Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said that continues to be a wait and see situation.

"We'll see how the weekend goes. It's premature to be guessing," he said. "It has to do with how the weekend is going, watching (LSU) for a couple of games and their lineup, and probably more where we are and who we use (the first two days)."

The Tigers enter the series with an overall record of 36-10. They are coming off a series win over Georgia at home this past weekend and defeated Tulane in a midweek contest earlier this week.

As a team, LSU is hitting at a .301 clip and is led at the plate by Raph Rymes with a .503 batting average and 46 RBI through 43 starts. Mason Katz leads the power production with eight home runs this season for LSU.

The pitching staff for the Tigers has a 3.20 ERA and has posted 421 strikeouts to 112 walks this season while allowing 147 earned runs on 371 hits. Friday night starter Kevin Gausman holds a 3.12 ERA and has posted a 7-1 record through 11 starts this season. Gausman has posted 97 strikeouts to only 20 walks in his time on the mound for LSU.

LSU has lost eight of its last nine games in Oxford, having won just one game since last winning a series here in 2004.

Zach Kirksey is still rehabbing a sprained ankle he turned in the Murray State game. Blake Newalu has shin splints and Bianco said he isn't sure how either will be for the weekend series.

This weekend's games are at 6:30 p.m. today, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

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