Hetland ready to contribute again in 2007

Nick Hetland was a weekend starter at the beginning of the 2006 Ole Miss baseball season, but things didn't go as planned after that. Now he's back and ready for a new start in 2006-07.

It was a difficult first season at Ole Miss for Nick Hetland. Now it's all about starting over.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior from Apple Valley, Minn., and Clarendon (Texas) Junior College was a weekend starter for the Rebels back in February. He was where he wanted to be, starting for a Southeastern Conference team and looking toward a future of success in Oxford.

It might have only lasted one season at Ole Miss had the right-hander been successful and gotten drafted highly last month. But the best-laid plans are often disrupted. In Hetland's case that came in the form of some pain when he threw the baseball. For a pitcher to be effective, that can't happen.

After pitching in only four games, three of them starts, and totaling just 13 innings, Hetland was pulled out of the mix for rehab of what appeared to be a shoulder situation. He never saw the mound again in a game this past season.

"It just hurt to throw," he said. "My velocity was way down, and there was no way I could be effective."

Hetland was medically redshirted and just a week ago had surgery on his upper back to remove an area that had grown under his shoulder blade. With that surgery successful and rehabbing already begun, Hetland talks candidly about his new outlook and approach to being a college pitcher at this level.

"It's all about a fresh start. It was a tough first year," he said. "But now I'm just so ready to go out and get things going again. I learned a lot last year and I'm ready to give it my best this year. Hopefully my health will cooperate this time."

Hetland is in Oxford for the summer and will continue to rehab so he can be ready for fall baseball. A healthy Hetland will be another positive addition to a solid returning pitching staff for 2007.

"It was disappointing the way things went for me this past year," he said. "I really wanted to be able to help the team. Now, with the experience of last year and being a year older and hopefully healthy, I feel like I can do that now."

Another Rebel pitcher has been released medically to throw again off the mound. Justin Cryer, a 6-2, 220-pound right-hander from Leesville, La., was in his redshirt freshman year when he underwent Tommy John surgery last fall.

But now he appears to be ready to get back into the mix and make his way toward fall baseball as another available Rebel arm. In two seasons at Ole Miss, Cryer has yet to pitch in a contest.

Also Rebel pitcher Phillip Irwin, a 6-3, 200-pound, right-hander from Memphis, Tenn., had Tommy John surgery around Christmas last year during his true freshman year, so that puts him behind Cryer in terms of length of rehab time. I'll try to find out how Irwin's rehab and timetable are coming along in the near future.

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