Another Start

Rory McKean gets his second start of the season for Ole Miss (12-4) tonight against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, only his third career collegiate start. Sticking around for a fifth season, no matter his role, has been special for the senior right-hander.

"Obviously not many guys do that," said the Montgomery, Ala., native, joining Zach Miller as players who returned this season for a fifth year. "You come back not really for individual goals. It's all about the team, and we really want to be here."

McKean believes in lending a helping hand to the younger players on the squad.

"These younger guys, these younger pitchers, they've got to understand they can get the job done," he said. "You just learn to realize that everything's going to be OK. That every day you're not going to have your best stuff. Some days aren't going to go well. Some days are going to go really well. You have to learn to handle both."

McKean, with four other appearances this season in relief, led the Rebs to victory last Tuesday. Ole Miss beat Austin Peay 14-4 as he worked 5.0 innings and held the Governors to three runs - one earned - on seven hits with seven strikeouts. He did not walk a batter.

McKean graduated last May with a degree in biochemistry and stuck around. He's working on a second degree, this one in business. That perhaps makes his situation even more unique.

"You get here and you get to be a part of the program," he said. "You see how great it is and you understand your role and just try to be a team guy. If you just work hard and try to get better, eventually you'll get your time."

McKean has handled being in a fairly limited role with class and character and as the ultimate team player. He joked a little earlier this season after a rare starting appearance.

"My second start in 56 appearances," he smiled and said. But whatever his role, McKean takes everything and turns it into a positive.

"You can't worry about not getting out there," he said. "You just continue to do your thing, and Coach (Mike) Bianco is going to put you out there when he thinks you need to be out there. Whether we're down by 20 or whether it's for a midweek start, you just go out there and do your part to help us win. Just be the guy when your name is called."

McKean has had a lot of time to work on his pitching since he's been in college. He says he's not the same player he was when he arrived.

"I've gotten so much better," he said. "In high school I played three sports, football, basketball, and baseball. I didn't play travel baseball that much. I got here and had to get used to playing baseball year ‘round like a lot of these guys did growing up. The coaches here have taught me things, and also being around older guys have taught me things. I've just tried to work and absorb everything the coaches have tried to teach me."

McKean was an accomplished high school football player. A quarterback, he almost chose that sport for college. He even had some SEC activity during recruiting.

Vanderbilt had made an offer, and he was waiting to hear more from Alabama and his parents' and his sister's alma mater, Auburn. A deeply spiritual person, McKean said he understands why he made the decision to stick with baseball at the next level.

"It was hard at first," he said. "I was more of a football player in high school, and I thought that was where I was going to end up. But the Lord just closed those doors and opened up the baseball door at Ole Miss for me. Ole Miss had offered me for baseball in the fall (of his senior season of high school), and I was kind of waiting to hear more from Auburn and Alabama in football. They wanted me to wait around closer to Signing Day. But Ole Miss wanted to me to sign for baseball in November."

So with thought and prayer and family support, he chose the Rebels and baseball.

"I loved Ole Miss outside of the baseball aspect of it, and I felt the Lord leading me here," McKean said. "It's been perfect. It's the best decision I could have made, and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's been the best five years of my life."

Bianco says McKean will be a success in whatever he chooses to do.

"He's a great leader, and the kids respect him so much," his head coach said. "It's how he handles himself. He's a great teammate and a great leader, and one of those guys who does it the right way on and off the field."

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