On The Mound

Ole Miss opened the baseball season winning two of three games against William and Mary. Given the likely talent level of both, it wasn’t surprising that the first two games were split and the finale was all Rebels.

Some of the early series can work that way, where the favored team either sweeps or takes two of three, usually clinching with a last-game victory.

Probably the most disturbing thing of all was Sam Smith’s start and Matt Denny’s relief of Smith. Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco has through the years always stated that it all “starts on the mound” and goes from there. Since that’s the case, the Rebels struggled in the second game of the series when its first two pitchers of that contest were not at their best. They ultimately lost 8-1, but there were some bright spots.

Jacob Waguespack, in his third season, is being counted on this year to step into most likely a reliever role or but potentially a midweek starting role. He went five innings after Smith and Denny, got no run support, faced 18 Tribe batters, and allowed only one run – unearned – on one hit with two strikeouts and a walk.

“I felt good out there,” Waguespack said. “My fast ball was working, and I was trying to get ahead. There were a lot of great plays made behind me, lot of ground balls, a few flyouts, one hard hit to Cam (Dishon in right field). But there were some great plays behind me.”

It was an extended inning by Waguespack, and the Rebels needed to see that from the 6-6, 215, junior right-hander. Wags, as his teammates call him, said he tried to stay in the game as long as he could and focused on that.

“I ate a few granola bars in the dugout. I really did feel great out there,” he said. “I was just trying to get ahead. My curve ball was working as well.”

And he felt good about his command throughout.

“There was one hiccup there, one walk. I felt like I was straying away mechanically. But I bounced back.”

Waguespack, who struggled through some injuries his first season but was better last season, said he’s in the best condition he has been in at Ole Miss.

“Definitely,” he said concerning that. “Arm’s feeling great. My body feels great. Coach Ben (Fleming) has been busting our butt in the weight room, and Coach (Josh) Porter is the greatest trainer. So everybody’s really helped me along the way.”

And he said his confidence is sky high.

“It’s great. I’m just trying to get ahead when I’m out there. Once you get that strike one, it’s a lot easier to throw more strikes when you get ahead. So I sitck with it and play the course.”

Waguespack is excited about being a major part of the pitching staff and getting those extended roles more often.

“I’m just trying to help us do whatever to get the win,” he said. “Obviously pitching good whenever we lose is not a good feeling. But (I’m out there to do) whatever I can do to help the team win.”

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco was pleased with the way Waguespack came in and handled a tough situation.

“I’m proud of him. He pitched more like he pitched in the fall,” Bianco said. “He hadn’t pitched great in January and early February. But today looked like the way he pitched this fall. He had a terrific fast ball, the breaking ball (was good), and really kept it where it was. It was still early. If we could have done something offensively (in game two), maybe we could have made a run at them.”

Sophomore left-hander Evan Anderson, who pitched in game one of the series (1.1 innings, three runs, two earned, four hits, four striketouts), is set to start against Arkansas State on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Oxford.

Also making appearances over the weekend were Scott Weathersby (game one, 2.2 innings, no runs, no hits, no walks, three strikeouts), Matt Denny (no hits, three runs, none earned, three walks, no strikeouts, no outs recorded), Drake Robison (one inning, one hit, no runs, no strikeouts, no walks), Will Stokes (one inning, two hits, no runs, no walks, one strikeout), Wyatt Short (one inning, no runs, no hits, no walks, two strikeouts).

Bianco Bytes:

* On third-game starter Brady Bramlett going six innings in the Rebels’ 16-2 finale win but found some trouble in the fifth: “We talked about his (velocity) went way down. As great as he was looking, there were some long innings. Here’s a guy in his first college start in a year and a half or whatever it’s been, here he is coming back, long innings, first game of the year. I went out on the mound and talked to him. His velo jumped up again. He was able to come back and look good finishing.”

* On Sam Smith, the second game starter: “He just didn’t have anything. No offspeed, really struggled in the strike zone, which is so uncharacteristic of him. Sam’s a strike thrower that throws four different pitches with a lot of movement on his fast ball. He just couldn’t get the ball into the strike zone. Had to stop the two-seam and go to the four-seam. Basically had no other secondary pitch. It just got away from him. Tough day. Really uncharacteristic of him.”

* On potential weekend starter Sean Johnson (one inning, one hit, no runs, no strikeouts, no walks), who has battled tendonitis: “He looked terrific. A little tender still. Not in the shoulder, little tender elbow. I thought he looked terrific. It’s tough the first time when you run out there. He handled it. He threw it into the strike zone. He threw his fast ball, curve and cutter. So he threw three pitches, which is tough to do in a short stint. We need him. He’s too talented not to have out there.”

* On Christian Trent, who started game one and went five innings, allowing one run on six hits with six strikeouts and a walk: “Trent wasn’t his best today, but certainly he made pitches when he had to. He didn’t have the slider today. One of the things that makes him so special is he’s able to make pitches and can get off the field. He can reach down and make the pitches when he needs to.”

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