Garrett White has been a big part of the Rebel pitching staff this season, mostly as a reliever.
Early in the season White was as effective as the coaches thought he would be. Then came a few rocky outings as the team faded a bit in March.
Lately the 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior LHP, with 21 appearances this season and only one start, has been his old self again. With the Rebels heading to Kentucky for three important games this weekend against a team that is as offensively potent as the 11th-ranked Wildcats are should make White's role even more important. White hopes to have the opportunity to help out.
"I thrive under pressure. What better time to come into a game," White said emphatically of the closer role earlier this week. "As a closer you have to go out there and know your stuff's good enough. You have to know you're going to get these people out."
White signed out of high school in Round Rock, Texas, near Austin with the Texas Longhorn program and was there for a year and a half before moving on to San Jacinto Junior College. His days at Texas were filled with arm problems.
"I had nagging arm trouble the whole time I was there," he said of his time with the powerhouse UT program. "I got to San Jac and threw well but had the arm trouble again. I went to a doctor and had some work down on my elbow. Since then I haven't had any pain."
He said he could have gone back to Texas but chose to get out of town and come to Oxford. He had signed with Ole Miss before last June's Super Regional.
"I'm a bigtime Texas kid but I was rooting for Ole Miss to win that (Super Regional)," White said. "I'd already signed here. I have a lot of high school teammates that go to Texas, but I was cheering for my new team."
A team one season later he now closes for.
"This year isn't my first time to be a closer," he said. "In high school until my senior year I was a closer. We had four D-I signees that were starting pitchers ahead of me. At San Jac I rotated in between starter and closer."
For the most part, he's been highly effective with the Rebels. Perhaps no game meant more in refocusing White toward the second half of the season than the one on April 11.
That was the night he closed out the Rebels' 1-0 win against Mississippi State in Jackson. White came in for Cody Satterwhite, who had relieved starter Will Kline after seven innings. All he had to do was get the Bulldogs out three times, and he did.
But it took a while. White walked the leadoff batter, which was the tying run. A wild pitch got the runner to second. He then struck out the next Bulldog to move closer to victory.
Then he hit a guy. Not good. Men on first and second. One out. One-run lead. Huge game. Pressure? You bet. But White says he likes pressure and he had a state-full of it at that moment.
Next batter flies out. Two outs, two on. Almost there.
But he walks the next Bulldog. Bases loaded. Two outs. One run lead.
Moments later, STRIKE THREE. Bulldog pinch hitter Matt Richardson can't get any runs home, and White had come through in a game he says he didn't understand the significance of until that night.
"I was aware it was a big situation but not how big," said White, currently with a 3-0 record along with seven saves through the Rebels' 46 games and an ERA of 2.14 in 42 innings to date. "Being from Texas, I didn't know it was that big. It was a bigtime situation with all those fans there and the atmosphere of the game. It was great.
"Our team had played so hard that night," White continued. "(Zack) Cozart hit that home run (a leadoff shot over the left field wall in the top of the second inning). It would have been bad to waste that."
So White made sure it wasn't wasted as he shut down the Bulldogs just in time.
And he's moved on from there, becoming once again an effective closer for the Rebels. Like Saturday in the Rebels' 21-13 win against Tennessee and again Tuesday in their 11-7 win against Nicholls State.
It's May and the 17th-ranked Rebs have things like postseason play, Super Regionals, and the College World Series on their minds. White says that's the way it should be and why when it all came down to it he wanted to play for teams headed that way – programs like Texas and Ole Miss.
"Truthfully in high school I'd probably never even heard of Ole Miss," he said. "After juco, I could have gone back to Texas, but I thought it was a better fit here. It was the right decision for me, and I love it here.
"We're trying to get to Omaha. Coming in to close, I just have to do my job and get outs. I am feeling more like I did at the start of the year now. I'm getting my confidence back."
And that's a good news for the Ole Miss Rebels as they continue to push toward their goals for the 2006 season.
Garrett White loves closer role for Rebels
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