Stopper Needed

OMAHA, Neb. – Christian Trent has faced this situation before. His team, on the brink of elimination, calling on the sophomore southpaw to be the stopper they need to keep their season alive.


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Trent delivered in such a spot a little over a week ago. Ole Miss was fresh off a deflating, 9-5 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in super regional play when Trent took the mound and worked a brilliant outing against one of the top offenses in the country.

He surrendered one unearned run on four hits with a pair of walks and seven strikeouts over 7.0 innings. He threw a career-high 107 pitches in his longest outing since April 18 against LSU and tied a career-high for strikeouts.

"He's got three pitches, locates. Awesome," senior catcher Will Allen said. "At UL-L, we were busting righties in, and once they started to open up and gear up for the fastball, he started throwing the change-up and the slider in there. It's not like his stuff isn't good. He throws low-90s, upper-80s with his fastball. His slider and change-up are really good off-speed pitches. The mix of the three keeps hitters off balance. It's tough to hit."

Ole Miss (46-20) fell in a pitcher's duel, 2-1, in the opening game of the College World Series Sunday night. Virginia's Nathan Kirby, a first team All-American and ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year, carved up the Rebels, going 7.0 innings and allowing one hit and one run with four strikeouts over just 84 pitches.

"He's always answered the bell. He's the right man for the job, for sure."

The impetus is now on Trent to swing momentum back in Ole Miss' favor. The Rebels face Texas Tech for the right to stay in Omaha Tuesday at 2 p.m. on ESPN2.

"He's been terrific," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said of Trent. "Undefeated, I believe, still and pitches the second game. He's always given us a lift, either to win the series on the weekend or to even the series. Hopefully he'll give us another great outing on Tuesday."

"Last week, I would say, was the first real pressure as far as a game," Trent said. "I like the role I'm in and everything. I feel great to go out there and do what I can for my team."

Trent boasts a 2.21 ERA in 16 starts. He's tallied 80 strikeouts to 19 walks, which is good for a nearly 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Opponents are hitting only .235 against him.

Trent watched as Ole Miss came close to stealing a win Sunday night, and he acknowledged postgame the enormity of his upcoming start and the pressure that comes with it. But he's never been one to get too up or too down.

Not his style.

"Everything gets tuned out," he said. "As big as the crowd was, that won't be a factor. None of that will be a factor by the time I'm rolling through the game.

"I feel like you can't (think too much), or the pressure will get to you. Using UL-L as an example, I went out there with the same routine, same mindset. I had some nerves at first, but that's usual. That's every game. The mindset will be the same."

Allen said what has made Trent so great is his competitiveness, which is second to none. Off the field, according to Allen, Trent is "crazy. He's off the wall. Just one of the guys who's all over the place." But like any ace, when he steps on the mound, a switch is flipped and the stopper emerges.

"Right before the game, he locks in. He's ready to go. He's real quiet, just kind of observing everything. He goes out there and goes about his business the right way. Competes. You've seen it; it's tough to hit. He just shuts people down, and that's all we can really ask for.

"He's all business when he gets out there. He's done a tremendous job of just competing and keeping guys off balance. He's an awesome pitcher. It's like having a second Friday starter in the SEC."

Win-loss record for pitchers can certainly be considered a flawed statistic. But in the case of Trent, who is 9-0 on the year, it can't be completely dismissed. If nothing else, it shows Ole Miss has been at its best when he's on the mound.

The Rebels can only hope the season-long trend continues against the Red Raiders.

"He's always answered the bell," Bianco said. "He's the right man for the job, for sure."


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