Bittle's Back

No news was good news for Ole Miss fans, as the deadline for MLB draft picks to sign professional contracts came and went without Scott Bittle's signature Friday.

When the New York Yankees selected Bittle with the 75th pick in this year's First Year Player Draft, it was thought to be a foregone conclusion that the right-hander would make the leap to professional baseball.

However, negotiations stalled following concerns about the healthiness of Bittle's throwing shoulder, thus prompting the All-America selection to return to Ole Miss for his senior season.

"My feelings go both ways," head coach Mike Bianco said. "I know Scott wanted to sign, and I truly feel bad for him. It is a trying situation. On the other hand, it is obviously exciting to return a pitcher of his caliber. It is impossible to replace a Scott Bittle, and we will have him back for one more season. Not often do you return a senior that was already the best pitcher in the SEC."

Although New York was troubled by something it saw in Bittle's shoulder during his post-draft physical, the 2008 Boo Ferris Award winner feels no pain and received a clean bill of health by other medical personnel.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to return to Ole Miss and play baseball," said Bittle in a statement released by the University. "There is nothing like pitching in front of Rebel fans, and I am ready to get back out there and do that for another season."

Bittle dismantled the opposition in 2008 with a 7-1 record and 1.78 ERA in 27 appearances. The then junior averaged more than 16.5 strikeouts per nine innings and led the SEC in total strikeouts during the regular season on his way to earning second-team league honors.

During the Coral Gables Regional, Bittle helped eliminate Missouri and send the Rebels to the championship game with 4.1 innings of work where he struckout 12 and accounted for all 13 outs.

It would have been a great way to exit his Ole Miss career, but instead, Rebels' fans get to see "The Thing" for another season.

"He is a team guy that can be used in multiple ways and be effective in every one of them," Bianco said. "Any baseball team that gets Scott Bittle back automatically becomes exponentially better."

The Yankees also selected Bittle in the late rounds of the 2007 Draft.

Bittle Not Alone

Although it had already been announced, Logan Power and Brett Basham are now officially returning for their senior seasons as well.

Power hit .329 last season and started 64 games in the Rebel outfield. Power was second on the team with 122 total bases.

Basham, the reigning SEC Defensive Catcher of the Year, started every game of 2008 and set a modern school record by throwing out 27 runners attempting to steal. He also picked off three runners.

"Those two are blessings to have back," Bianco said. "This time last year, Power and Basham were circled as not likely to return, and their years did nothing to change that. They are two veterans that will lead us and be very productive next season."

Newcomers Taylor Hightower and Aaron Barrett also turned down the draft and will report to campus.

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