McKean Making Most of Opportunity

Flurries of snow lightly fell as Rory McKean walked to Swayze Field on Tuesday. The forecast had called for precipitation and low temperatures, and those predictions were coming true

Nevertheless, the redshirt sophomore trotted across campus and kept his focus. McKean was positive that Old Man Winter wouldn't damper what was to be his day.

The Montgomery, Ala., native has steadily improved since arriving in Oxford, and the hard work came to fruition against Southern Miss, as McKean was awarded with his first collegiate start, and subsequently earned his first collegiate win. The right-hander took advantage of his opportunity, battling the inclement weather and furthering the confidence that he will perform when called on again.

"I was pretty juiced up," McKean said. It is just a different ballgame from being a reliever to being a starter, so it was really excited to get out there. This isn't exactly the weather you hope for, but you have to put that behind you and just do what you know how to do.

"You certainly don't want it cancelled, and you have to be mentally prepared to go. Things went along as planned, and Coach Bianco said there was no chance of pushing it back any. I had to get ready to go."

When all was finished, No. 2 Ole Miss (9-0) defeated the Golden Eagles 8-5, and McKean went the first five frames, allowing two runs while striking out four and walking one.

His first inning as a starter was eventful. McKean struckout the side but allowed two doubles and a run in the meantime. However, the multiple extra-base hits didn't cause frustration. Instead, he buckled down and allowed just a solo home run the rest of the way.

"I tried to find the zone early and locate all three of my pitches," McKean said. "They were aggressive and jumped on a couple of my pitches I left up, but after that, I settled in and kept things rolling."

Coming into 2008, McKean has four career appearances. Tuesday was his fourth appearance this season through nine games. The two runs against USM were the first ones earned off the sophomore. He touts a 1.54 ERA and has struckout 12 against three walks in 11.2 innings.

McKean's offseason work ethic and drive to compete has been evident.

"Not throwing as much the last few years has been frustrating, but it is definitely nice to get out here and see that the work has paid off. From a pitching standpoint, it is all about the same as last year, but gaining weight and hitting the weightroom in the offseason has helped my velocity stay up.

"Last weekend for example, I threw in the pen all three days and still came out and started on Tuesday, so I am in better overall physical shape. It helps have a little more energy and more stamina."

McKean has been happy with the multiple outings this early on, although he was shocked when hearing that he was being granted his first start, as it came from an unexpected source.

The Rebels were off Monday but were ordered to show up and pull the tarp because of the expected bad weather. While there, closer Justin Cryer informed McKean that he was getting the nod against Ole Miss' in-state opponent.

"I went to verify it with Coach Bianco just to double check," McKean joked. "Then, he told me also, and I just had to make sure to get some sleep and be ready to go."

Bianco lifted McKean after five innings, but it wasn't because he was struggling. It was all about looking ahead.

"I had thrown 89 pitches, so that was a little high," McKean noted. "It was good to come out at that point. They want me ready to pitch again this weekend."

And beyond that as well.

McKean braved the wintry weather on Tuesday, and the only challenge remaining is to stay consistent. But that is fine with him. The opportunity to show consistency is the prize for his hard work and steadfastness.

It is a reward in itself. To be one the pitchers routinely called on.

"It is great to get this chance. Getting this much mound time makes everything worth it. I can't describe the feeling."

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