Mathis ready to play baseball at UM

Tanner Mathis always wanted to play baseball in the Southeastern Conference. Ole Miss offered him that opportunity.

Mathis, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound centerfielder/left-handed pitcher from Lake Charles, La., committed to the Rebels recently and will sign in November. It's a dream come true for the high school senior.

"I grew up wanting to play SEC baseball," Mathis said. "Ole Miss is the perfect fit for me."

Mathis, like most Louisiana kids growing up in that state, admitted he has been an LSU fan. But Ole Miss is his school now, and he's excited about that.

"I've been up there twice, the last time for the Samford weekend," he said. "I loved it. It's awesome."

He made the trip to Oxford with his parents and grandparents and also his younger brother, Tyler. In a way it was a troubling trip for the family.

"We were making the trip to see Ole Miss, but we were also evacuating from Hurricane Ike, too," he said. "It was OK when we got home, though. There'd been just a lot of rain and wind."

LSU had talked to him as had Texas A&M, Tulane, Stanford, Louisiana-Lafayette, Southern Mississippi, UNLV, and Southeastern Louisiana. When Ole Miss offered, it was what the CF/LHP wanted to hear.

"They said I'd have a chance to do both, and if I pitched, that would be a bonus," he said.

As a junior last season, Mathis was All-State, All Southwest Louisiana, and All-District. He was a preseason All-American.

His batting average last season was .560, and his on-base percentage was .627. He had 12 doubles and four triples, but with no home runs he says working on his power is a priority.

"I don't have great power," he admitted. "I'm working on getting stronger to develop more power and to hit the ball harder."

He missed fielding and batting in the first 15 games last season because of a torn right shoulder labrum, which is his non-pitching arm. But he still was able to pitch even early.

For the season, Mathis went 5-2 with 21 appearances including five saves and a 4.8 ERA along with 70 strikeouts. He has a fast ball, curve, changeup, and slider in his arsenal.

He's the leadoff guy for his team, and he's been an effective one.

"I've got speed," he said, which is one of the reasons he's leading off and also playing center field. "And I don't strikeout much. I'm pretty good at chasing balls in the gap and also stealing bases."

This summer he played in several showcase events, from Las Vegas to Tulsa to Jackson.

"I had a good summer," Mathis said. "I hit for more power. I could tell I was hitting the ball off the bat harder."

And now he tries to put it all together for his final season at baseball powerhouse Barbe High School, where former UM catcher Justin Brashear prepped. Mathis has already had one instance of trading in the purple and gold for blue, but without the red.

"My old school, Moss Bluff, which is not that far away, was purple and gold," he said. "Barbe is navy and baby blue. So I'm already used to blue."

And next time with Rebel red mixed in as well.

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