Patience Paying Off

Matt Tracy appears to have finally emerged as a candidate to pitch on the weekends. That's after two years of being a member of the Ole Miss baseball team in somewhat relative obscurity.

The junior left-hander from Des Peres, Mo., is one of the pitchers in the mix for a start that first weekend when Louisiana-Monroe comes to town on Feb. 19.

"It's probably down to four guys. (Drew) Pomeranz, (Trent) Rothlin, (Aaron) Barrett, and (Matt) Tracy. I think they give us the best shot the first weekend, and we're not exactly sure how it will fall yet," said Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco.

The 10th-year head coach said the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Tracy is having an excellent preseason.

"I think he's been tremendous. He's probably one that people have talked about the least, but the guy that's been one of the most consistent guys since the first intrasquad back in September."

Tracy said he's pleased with where he is.

"It's really exciting," he said, appearing in 11 games since coming to Ole Miss two years ago but never starting. "I've changed a few things up. I feel great. I'm throwing strikes with all my pitches, and that's pretty much the reason why I've had more success than in the past."

Tracy said he's hoping to make the most of any opportunity that presents itself as the season nears.

"I haven't had too many chances the last few years," he said, "and I haven't done as well as I'd hoped. But I think it's just growing up a little bit and feeling more confident, feeling about as confident as I did back in high school when everyone has all that success."

Tracy feels the landscape of the pitching staff also means things are a bit open for someone like him to emerge.

"That's a big difference in my freshman year. We had Lance Lynn, Cody Satterwhite, Drew Pomeranz, and all those guys," he said. "There's definitely an opportunity this year, and guys are starting to see that. It's time for us to step up and lead this team."

Tracy continues to add to his pitching repertoire.

"It's always been fast ball, changeup, curve ball," he said. "Changeup was probably my best pitch. This year I've developed a slider, a cutter that I've been throwing actually a lot more than the curve ball. So that's probably my No. 1 breaking ball, the slider. I'd struggled some getting my curve ball in the zone. But with that pitch it's easier to throw it for a strike. It doesn't break as much, and you can control it a lot easier."

Tracy has also found himself in the lineup somewhere else this preseason – the outfield. It's been fun, he said, and he might even be able to help out other than on the mound.

"I played there in high school and I love to hit," he said. "We experimented some with me hitting in the fall, and I did OK. I started to play the outfield a little bit, which makes it a lot of fun for me. I feel like a little kid again playing baseball, and not just a pitcher. We'll see what comes of it."

So Tracy has patiently waited and worked on his game and, admittedly, his maturity in the game. It's paying off day by day.

"It's been a little frustrating, but it's all on you," he said, pointing to himself. "You can step up and do very well in the intrasquads leading up to the season to get your shot, or you can struggle. I just trusted myself and stayed confident and believed that eventually I'd get my shot."

Now it looks like he will.

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