Lance Lynn ready for the second time around

When Lance Lynn arrived at Ole Miss last August, he had a lot of work to do to get into shape and to get ready for the battles of SEC baseball. He handled it all admirably, and by the spring became one of the Rebels' best pitchers during the 2006 season.

Lance Lynn has spent his summer in Oxford. He's already looking toward year two as an Ole Miss pitcher.

This time last year the right-hander from the Indianapolis area was making a decision between college and pro baseball after being drafted in the sixth round by the Mariners. He ultimately chose college.

Lynn arrived at Ole Miss in August and had a lot of work to do. He remembers.

"It was a rude awakening for me," said Lynn, who knew he had to drop some weight and get into better shape upon arrival. "It showed me from that first day that I had a long way to go. But I also knew I had made the right decision to go to college."

That in a nutshell was what made Lynn a special pitcher in his first collegiate season. He came in highly-touted but with no attitude about him. He got here and knew he had work to do. He then went about the task of getting ready for the 2006 season.

He pitched 85.1 innings during the season, second-most on the team behind another freshman, Brett Bukvich. Lynn finished the year with a 4.96 ERA and a 7-3 record, with 18 appearances, 15 starts, and one save.

In the third series of the season Lynn got the Sunday start, a position he kept all season. The Sunday starter is important because if the team wants to sweep, it has to win Sunday. If it's split games, Sunday is a must-win for the series. And if the first two games are losses, then Sunday is the salvage opportunity.

Lynn said he liked that role, but that starting any of the three weekend games is special.

"All the games are important, but the Sunday role is a good one," he said. "I don't believe there are a lot of Sunday starters who throw it like I do. I was glad to be able to give the team an opportunity to win the last game of a series."

It was all a part of a successful first year for the 6-foot-5, 270-pounder from Brownsburg, Ind., High.

"I felt like it was a good year," he said. "Being so young and being able to contribute in the SEC was good. I'm already working on improving for next year so I'll be even better when the (2007) season comes around."

This summer he's worked out three days a week in the weight room and on conditioning. He hasn't pitched for any team or in games, and that was by design. He and the coaches felt that was best for him after a long first season of collegiate baseball.

He's taken a couple of classes the second semester of summer school. Of course the first semester of summer school was already well underway when the season ended with the Super Regional.

The Rebels return a lot of experienced arms. Six pitchers are back who threw at least 30 innings each. That doesn't even count former starter Nick Hetland (Jr., RHP) who returns following injury and a medical redshirt season after pitching only 13 innings early.

"Our pitching staff is going to be good," Lynn said. "We're all real close, and it's great to know so many guys with experience are back. It's all about performing and winning, and with all the guys back we have a chance to do that."

Lynn said he has worked hard on his offspeed pitches, trying to get better and throwing more strikes. He improved his slider last season, which he said he didn't use that much in high school. He says his changeup is a bit unusual.

"It's just different because of the way I grab the baseball," he said. "I just have a different feel for it. My hand is big enough that I can grip it a certain way and it works for me. Of course I've always had a lot of confidence in my fastball. I just have to keep working on my offspeed pitches."

Lynn says there's no doubt in his mind that he made the right choice going to college rather than heading for pro baseball a year ago.

"I know in this program and with Coach (Mike) Bianco working with me that I have a better chance of getting to the major leagues than if I'd gone straight to the pros," he said. "I can get there from here."

A couple of area friends from his high school days will join him in Oxford in the next few weeks. Andrew Clark and Dan Black, two highly-touted Indiana kids who will be on the Rebels roster as hitters and infielders this fall, are set to possibly contribute in their first seasons as well.

"I know both of them," Lynn said. "I've played on teams against them and with them. I was paired up with them when they came on their recruiting visits here last year. We're all good friends and we grew up in the same area. But they knew they wanted to come here. This program does the talking for itself."

Lynn has had a lot of support since he's been at Ole Miss. His family has been highly supportive of him coming south to play college baseball.

"My dad and my uncle made all the SEC weekends," he said. "No matter where we played they were there. A lot of other family members made some games. It was good to see them supporting me and the team."

And now it's on to year two.

"It's going to be exciting," he said. "I'm more comfortable now and know more what to expect. It should be a fun fall getting ready for next season."

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