Saturday In The Park

Aaron Barrett will start game two this weekend against Tennessee, just like he's done the second game of every series this season.

For six straight Saturdays the senior right-hander from Evansville, Ind., by way of Wabash Valley Community College, has picked up a victory, as has his team.

Along the way Barrett has struck out 46 opposing batters, second best on the team - behind Rebel Friday night starter Drew Pomeranz, who has 58 Ks and leads the Southeastern Conference.

Pomeranz and Barrett are arguably the best one-two punch in SEC baseball this season. From Pomeranz, it was expected. From Barrett, it was more of "let's hope he can get it done."

This season has been a far cry from last year for the talented, 6-foot-4, 220-pounder. Last season was expected to be like this one is turning out to be. But there's no looking back, only ahead, for the Hoosier State product.

"I'm as confident as I've ever been," Barrett said. "It helps winning every game so far."

Of course it does. But you first have to win them to gain that confidence. So what's been the difference this season?

"I've been going with the same routine since day one this year," said Barrett, with a 2.13 ERA in a team-high 38.0 innings pitched. "I've just trusted the process and tried to go out there and control what I can control. Just keep the ball low and make pitches. And that's about it, really."

But there truthfully is more, and Barrett expounds upon it. He said he knew he was being counted on this season, and he tried to bring a mature demeanor and positive outlook to his approach, even as far back as fall ball.

"I knew coming into this season the coaching staff and the team were looking for me to step up," he said. "I can't really say that I felt any pressure to step up or take my game to another level. Everything has just kind of fallen into place this year, just going out there and making pitches and so far it's worked out great."

As the season has turned toward facing better teams, like Tulane and Louisville and now SEC foes, Barrett said the hitters have indeed become tougher outs.

"You've obviously got to be a little bit aware of better hitters," he said. "But I believe if you make the pitches and follow the scouting report, it doesn't matter who you play, you should be successful."

Barrett only made 14 appearances all last season and pitched just 30.0 innings. But he said so far so good as far as his arm holding up with more work in 2010.

"I feel fine. My arm feels great. My body feels great," he said. "Throughout my whole career I've been a starter. So I've been used to logging a lot of innings. Last year I didn't throw as much. But I threw a lot in the summer, and so physically I feel great."

Barrett admits this season is much more fun than last year ever was. He's doing better, the team is winning, and the season is about to move into what might be called it's heart.

"We've got to keep having fun and keep working at it," he said. "Just keep getting better every day."

That approach seems to be working just fine for Aaron Barrett.

The Weekend Series

No. 11 Ole Miss (20-6 overall, 4-2 in the SEC) and Tennessee haven't played baseball in two seasons, but they'll play three times this weekend at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field beginning today at 6:30 p.m. CT.

The Volunteers are 13-13 this season and won games this week against Tennessee Tech and Presbyterian College. Tennessee was swept last weekend by LSU at home in conference play. The Vols, swept the first weekend of league play by South Carolina, are 0-6 in the SEC.

As a team, Tennessee is batting .280 with 31 home runs and 172 RBI. P.J. Polk is the top hitter on the team, batting at a .354 clip with four home runs and 19 RBI on the year.

On the mound, the Vols have a team ERA of 4.85. Friday night starter Bryan Morgado, a junior left-hander, has a 2-2 record with a 4.42 ERA, along with 42 strikeouts and 19 walks on the season. As a staff, UT has struck out 194 batters and walked 106 to date. Teams are batting .247 against the Vols.

The remaining starters for UT are senior RHP Stephen McCray (2-3, 1.89), scheduled for Saturday's 4 p.m. CT contest, and sophomore LHP Steven Gruver (1-1, 4.76) for Sunday's 1:30 p.m. CT tilt.

Ole Miss counters with Barrett, of course, on Saturday, and with ace junior LHP Pomeranz (4-0, 1.23) tonight.

For the second consecutive Sunday, the Rebels have TBA listed in place of a starter, which means they will announce one later. That decision could come as late as Sunday morning.


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