Jake's Role

Jake Morgan's role as closer has been a surprise to some but not to Jake himself. It's what he's wanted to do all along and says so.

"In high school I was a closer, and that's what I love to do," the strike-throwing right-handed redshirt sophomore from Canton Academy said. "I love to come into those pressure situations. I just really love the moment, and the crowd's into it. Everybody's up in the dugout and stuff. That's what I live for."

He knows his role. It's clearly defined. He knows it's a valuable part of the equation of winning games.

"As a closer, that's what your deal is," said the 6-foot-1, 227-pounder. "You've got to go in and put up zeros so your team can have a chance to come back in and win. I knew if I did my part, they would do theirs."

Morgan has the team's best ERA currently at 2.45. He's appeared in 12 games and has pitched 18.1 innings. Lately he's been lights out with 20 of his last 21 outs coming by way of a strikeout.

His record is 3-1 and he's got one save. He's allowed 17 hits and five earned runs. He has 32 strikeouts and has walked only three.

If those numbers remain true to form, Morgan's efforts will be one of the main keys in carrying this team as far as it can go.

"I don't now if you can get much better than what Jake's doing," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "He's super-talented. He's going to throw the ball in the low to mid 90s. He's going to throw a hard slider. He gets both of them into the strike zone."

Bianco said Morgan has really put in the time and effort to improve.

"He can control the running game. Last year it was one of his weaknesses early. He worked on it toward the end and got better. But this year he's good again. He just throws a lot of strikes. He comes in and is able to hit spots and attack the zone. If you draw up a closer, you'd draw it up just like that, all those things I just said."

Bianco said Morgan is able to keep hitters off balance as well.

"He's only been throwing fastball and slider," he said. "He's able to mix it. He's able to throw the a slider first pitch. He's not a guy that has to throw a fastball first pitch. That's one of the neat things, and that's one of the reasons he's had so many strikeouts. Both pitches are very good, but he's able to throw both of them into the strike zone. They're going to chase some of them, and they're not able just to look for one pitch. It's hard when you mix it up like that."

Bianco explains further.

"My point is he's not a guy that comes in and throws fast balls to get ahead and then goes with a breaking ball. He can throw a breaking ball first. He can throw a fastball. It can be 2-2, he can throw fastball or a breaking ball. So I think that's why he gets a lot of swing and misses and a lot of takes. You might say how did that guy take that? Well he just saw an 83 mile an hour slider and the next one was 93 and was straight. It's tough."

Morgan pitched 41.1 innings last year with 19 appearances, one start, and had a 5-0 record with one save, mostly in a middle relief role.

He says the tight wins for the team lately are a result of an attitude and not by accident.

"We never give up," Morgan said. "That's the mentality of the guys in the dugout, getting us up and making sure we're still in the game. You feel like you're never going to lose."

Morgan said he doesn't give much thought to things like streaks and stats. But sometimes they are pointed out to him, like his strikeout streak lately.

"My roommate said something to me about it," he said, "but it was like 1 o'clock in the morning when I was walking in from a game. So I didn't really pay attention."

Certainly a whole lot of others are these days.

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