Fall baseball update

Mike Bianco says the baseball Rebels are doing a lot of things well this fall.

No particular area has really stood out. But he likes what he's seeing for the most part.

"We pitched a little better this past weekend," he said. "We're swinging it better. Certain guys have been tough to get out. Hitting's been good. There is a lot of confidence at the plate, and like we always say, it's been contagious."

Junior OF Jordan Henry is leading the way at the plate, batting a sizzling .500, with an on-base percentage of .550. He's only struck out once in 34 at-bats and is 10 of 12 in stolen bases. Safe to say at this point Henry's spot in the lineup is secure for spring 2009.

"Henry's played great. Offensively he's been terrific," Bianco said.

A somewhat surprising name is next as far as plate productivity. Redshirt freshman first baseman Cliff Vaughn is having a solid fall, batting .469 with team-highs of seven home runs and 37 total bases as well as 12 RBI. One of his homers cleared an outfield light pole at Oxford High School where the team is practicing this fall.

Third-year sophomore first baseman Matt Smith continues his strong plate presence, batting .394 with three home runs and six RBI. He's also second behind Henry in stolen bases with four and has an on-base percentage of .500.

Senior OF Michael Hubbard is the only other Rebel currently batting more than .350, with a .353 average, three home runs, two doubles, and seven RBI.

Phillip Irwin leads the pitching staff and has had an impressive fall. The fourth-year junior RHP has allowed no runs in 14 innings with just five hits, along with 16 strikeouts and five walks. Opponents are hitting .111 against the Memphis Christian Brothers High product.

"Irwin's been impressive," Bianco said. "He hasn't given up a run yet. And that's facing some good hitters."

Third-year sophomore RHP Jake Morgan has allowed one run in five innings with four hits in 17 batters faced, two Ks and two walks. A UCL (elbow) situation appears to be OK for Morgan at this point.

True freshman LHP Kyle Barbeck has allowed four earned runs in 13 and a third innings with 10 Ks and three walks. Opponents are hitting .157 vs. the Missouri native.

Junior LHP Nathan Baker has allowed three runs in nine innings, striking out nine with just one walk.

"Our pitchers have not done poorly but they've lacked that dominant outing so far," Bianco said. "We'd like a little more consistency."

Scott Bittle, the senior RHP, pitched for the second time this fall over the weekend. Through two outings he's only allowed two runs, a two-run home run by fourth-year junior Cullan Kight, on four hits in four and third innings with seven Ks, four walks and a hit-batsman.

There's quality depth in the infield. That includes players like true frosh Matt Snyder and Smith at first base, fourth-year junior Zach Miller at second along with sophomore Tim Ferguson (leading the team in RBI this fall with 14), fourth-year junior Evan Button and JUCO junior Kevin Mort at shortstop, with sophomore Logan Williams and freshman Mike Snyder, Matt's twin brother, at third.

"Defensively there's not much separation yet," Bianco said. "But we've done well defensively and only have 10 errors through four weekends. Keep in mind, that is 18 innings each game since we are in the field with every at-bat, too."

Senior Brett Basham (.324 average, two doubles, three RBI, four Ks, two walks) leads the catcher corps.

The Rebels have 43 home runs as a team in the smaller confines of OHS.

Cumulative stats will follow in another story.

The Rebels will intrasquad four days this week, Thursday through Sunday.

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