February is again proving to be the most challenging baseball month as cold temperatures and precipitation of various kinds are keeping Ole Miss from moving easily through its baseball schedule.
On Tuesday the scheduled game against Arkansas State was moved to this coming Tuesday. Now today’s start of the series opener with Wright State has been moved up an hour in anticipation of worse weather later today. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.
But it’s already unsuitable baseball weather outside with temperatures not predicted to move out of the 30s. It’s almost a minute to minute situation to see if things improve. Rain is also scheduled for much of the remainder of the weekend. So stay tuned.
Christian Trent is set to again take the mound for the opener today, but the rotation will change this weekend. Sam Smith, who started the second game last weekend against William and Mary, will start game three, while last weekend’s third-game starter, Brady Bramlett, will start game two.
Sean Johnson, a projected weekend starter who pitched one inning last weekend, continues to have some tenderness in his arm. He had an MRI Thursday and the result is a slight UCL tear. Johnson will visit with Dr. James Andrews on March 2 to see where things go from here.
This deep and talented staff can still be good, but it needs to stay injury free from this point on.
Sam Smith had sports hernia surgery last summer and is still feeling some effects.
“Sam had a bullpen (Thursday), feels great, and it was the best he’s looked in quite a while," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "It’s a combination of a lot of things. One was the area he had surgery is better. We changed up his treatment a little bit. We watched some video and saw he’s not the same guy mechanically he was last year. Arm slot’s dropped a lot. So we’ve been working and talking all week, and (Thursday) was a good culmination of that. He threw as well as we’ve seen him in a while, so that’s exciting."
* On third baseman Colby Bortles:
“He looked great this past weekend. I thought he had a good fall and is having an even better early spring. Just what we thought. Big guy but agile. Moves around well. He’s a ball player. He understands the game.”
* On freshman left fielder/infielder Kyle Watson:
“You hope they get off to that kind of start. Granted it’s just a couple of games. But it certainly wasn’t surprising because we know what he can do.”
* On freshman 2B Tate Blackman's struggles last weekend:
“Coach (Mike) Clement talked to him a lot. To me it’s part of it. He’s good. He looked great defensively this week. He’s not short of confidence. It’s also tough to walk out there (as a true freshman), and have all those articles written about you and the expectations. He’s going to be great.”
* Sophomore Colby Bortles, the only Rebel to hit a home run in the first three games:
“I thought things went well. I think I can swing it a little better. Defensively I thought I played really well. I thought the team played well. We’re going to hit. Think I got the butterflies out and play well at third. (The butterflies went away) when I made that diving play in the first inning. After that, I just played baseball. I wasn’t going up there trying to hit a home run. I was just trying to square a ball up and get a guy from third base in.”
* Freshman Kyle Watson:
“I’ve already put last weekend behind me and just try to play the best I can this weekend. There’s always room for improvement. It’s definitely different with the speed of the game. That and the environment we play in you have to get used to. The pitchers are up a level (from what he’s ever faced). I felt comfortable in left. Coach (Stephen) Head has done a great job helping convert (from infield) to the outfield. I love playing with everybody out there. The last time I played outfield before last weekend was like when I was nine or ten years old.”
* Senior pitcher Sam Smith:
“(Sports hernia surgery recovery) is definitely better this week. I got a couple of shots in (groin area) which wasn’t fun. The doctor told us that would help. It’s feeling better now. Last Saturday I obviously wasn’t feeling well. I ran out of gas before I normally would because I couldn’t use my lower half at all. I was throwing all arm. That affected a lot of things, command, velocity. It really doesn’t matter to me which day I pitch on (during a weekend series). I’m just happy to be pitching.”
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS (from Ole Miss athletics)
* Friday 3 p.m.
Wright State - Robby Sexton, Jr., LHP, 0-0, 8.44 ERA
Ole Miss - Christian Trent, Jr., LHP, 1-0, 1.80 ERA
- Picked up a victory in the season opener, going 5.0 innings and allowing one run on six hits
- Holds a 10-0 career record as a Rebel
- Named to the 50-player preseason Golden Spikes Award watch list
- Returned to the weekend rotation as the Friday starter after starting 17 games for the Rebels as the regular Saturday starter in 2014
- Posted a 9-0 record in 2014 with a 2.05 ERA and held opponents to a .233 batting average
* Saturday 1:30 P.M.
Wright State- Jesse Scholtens, Jr., RHP, 1-0, 1.29 ERA
Ole Miss - Brady Bramlett, So., RHP, 1-0, 3.00 ERA
- Returned to the mound on Saturday for the first time since missing the end of the 2013 season and the entire 2014 season due to injury
- Sealed the William & Mary series with a victory in the rubber match, going six innings and surrendering just two runs on four hits
- Struck out eight batters in the win over William & Mary without allowing a walk
- Saturday was his first career weekend start, having previously started four midweek games in his career
* Sunday 1:30 P.M.
Wright State - Trevor Swaney, R-So., RHP, 0-0, 2.57 ERA
Ole Miss - Sam Smith, Sr., RHP, 0-1, 12.00 ERA
- After pitching on Saturday last weekend, returns to his comfort zone as the Sunday starter, where he made 18 appearances during the 2014 season
- Is the most experienced starting pitcher in the SEC, making 37 career starts on the mound
- Posted a 5-4 record in 2014 with a 3.61 ERA and held opponents to a .286 batting average.
- Turned in nine quality starts, including a stretch of eight consecutive quality starts from March 2 through April 19
More on Wright State:
The Raiders of Wright State enter this weekend’s series with a record of 3-0 after defeating Belmont and taking a pair of games from Toledo to open the season. Wright State is led by junior Ryan Fucci and sophomore Mitch Roman, who each hit .500 during opening weekend. Fucci belted two home runs and paces the team with 7 RBI; in addition, five of his six hits went for extra bases, leading to a 1.250 slugging percentage. Adding to the power in the lineup, Derreck Garcia added a pinch-hit grand slam in the win over Belmont. Wright State plans to stick with the same rotation as it did to begin the season as lefty Robby Sexton will start on Friday evening, while Jesse Scholtens and Trevor Swaney will close out the weekend with starts on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
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